“Cocaine Bear” was released to theaters Feb. 24. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, it is one of the year’s most anticipated films ahead of the 95th Academy Awards, a celebration of the best in film and filmmaking. “Cocaine Bear” certainly is not the best of anything, but it is no doubt a good time and does not try to be anything more than its title promises.
Loosely based on a true story, “Cocaine Bear” follows a group of criminals endeavoring to recover thousands of pounds of cocaine from the Georgia wilderness when one of their middlemen loses the cargo en route to a dead drop.
Caught up in the drug deal are two children playing hooky and a concerned mother searching for them when they go missing in the woods. Stalking them is a black bear that, upon ingesting several bricks of the lost cocaine, goes on the hunt to satiate its appetite for the white powder.
Where “Cocaine Bear” shines brightest is in its varied cast of characters, who all cross paths in their concerted effort to either claim the stash of cocaine for themselves or stop the would-be drug smugglers, all the while fleeing from the coked-up bear in hot pursuit. When these characters are caught off guard, the kills are violent and satisfying in all the ways expected of the genre. Permeating the plot is a surprisingly heart-warming narrative of parenthood, which nicely juxtaposes the frequent moments of comedy and the charming horror of this creature feature.
The characters are entertaining to watch because of the experienced actors bringing their all to a film that, in lesser hands than Banks’s, would fall flat otherwise. Standouts include Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as buddy duo Eddie and Daveed, respectively, who want to claim as much of the missing cocaine as possible. Veteran Ray Liotta brings his all as Syd, a drug trafficker whose son, Eddie, wants out of the business. The film is dedicated to Liotta following his untimely death during 2022.
Where “Cocaine Bear” falters is in its thematic execution. Originally marketed as a horror film, it opted instead for more of a comedy than anything else by the time it was released. It is genuinely funny, but more elements of horror could have been implemented, especially given the familiar but often fruitful hunter-and-hunted dynamic of its plot.
Overall, “Cocaine Bear” is exactly what you would want it to be: a cocaine-fueled adventure with plenty of blood, gore and chaos, imbued with a storyline containing a surprising yet welcome message. Here is a film made for the original goal of cinema — entertainment in its purest form. 3.5/5 lines or bricks (of cocaine… if this isn’t okay, I totally get it lol)