cocaine bear | elizabeth banks | jimmy warden | keri russell | alden ehrenreich | o'shea jackson jr. | animal attack | drug | history | based on | true story | comedy | thriller | united states | ray liotta | isiah whitlock jr. | brooklynn prince | christian convery | margo martindale
Film: Cocaine Bear
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Jimmy Warden
Starring: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
This was a movie that when I heard about it, I laughed. That wasn’t a bad a thing though. It just is an absurd idea that if it wasn’t handled properly could fall flat. I did go to see this on the big screen at the Gateway Film Center during its opening weekend. I’ve also now given it a rewatch with my wife, Jaime, since I had fun the first time around.
Synopsis: an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.
We start this in an airplane. There is a guy who is tossing out bags of cocaine. His plan is to jump out with a parachute. There is a hiccup though. He is knocked out and falls out of the plane to his death. This alerts the police to what he was doing as they find one of the bags strapped to him.
The rest of the bags fall in the Chattahoochee National Park in Georgia. Living in this town is a nurse, Sari (Keri Russell). She has a daughter, Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince). They have an odd relationship that works. Sari is seeing a doctor and she wants Dee Dee to go away with them for the weekend. This upsets her as they already had plans. Dee Dee then skips school and goes off to the park with Henry (Christian Convery). Their plan is to paint the walls of a waterfall.
From the Tennessee city where the drug mule is found is a detective by the name of Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.). He is assigned the case and he’s going to Georgia to see if he can find the rest of the drugs. He leaves his dog with Officer Reba (Ayoola Smart).
There is the then the guy who is importing the drugs. Syd (Ray Liotta) sends Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to collect his son, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich). He is depressed due to his girlfriend passing away from cancer. He can’t even take care of his child who is living with Syd now, even though he doesn’t care about the boy. We see that Daveed and Eddie used to be friends, but have grown apart due to Syd and the family business.
Shifting then back to the national park, there is Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale). She is getting herself pretty for Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who is coming to check out the park and the animals. There is also a group of hoodlums that are attacking visitors there that Liz deals with. It annoys her since it is interfering with her getting promoted.
I haven’t even brought up the titular character. There is a black bear, who are normally harmless, living in the national park. That is until it gets into packages of cocaine. It makes this one amped up and angry. It attacks these characters I’ve laid out as they get trapped in its habitat. Sari won’t stop until she finds her daughter, where Syd demands his guys bring back all the drugs that they can find.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is bringing back up that this movie is wild. It also knows that and leans into it. This is a blast. It plays a lot of things for laughs and that works for me. What I think works well here is that the comedy comes from the absurdity. The characters are playing things straight, but there is also good timing. I’m not normally a comedy/horror fan, but I think this gets it right.
Now that I’m played my hand, let me break down a bit more why this works. I’ve heard that this is based on a true story. What I’ve gathered is that there was a cocaine dump in a national park and a bear got into it. I don’t think it got as amped up like this shows. From the bit I read, the bear died of an overdose. The characters in the movie aren’t sure what will happen. There is a funny scene where Bob says that. This knows that this is an outrageous idea that has facts behind it.
Where I then want to go would be the comedy. It can be hit or miss with me in horror movies. There is a tough blend where sometimes it can go too much in either way. This one had me cracking up with things that happened on the screen and then a character would say something that worked as well. I liked that it came from multiple directions. There is also good horror though. I’ll shift over to the effects here. This goes brutal with the deaths. The blood and gore is CGI, but they do well in hiding it. The cinematography helps to hide it too. That is strategic. I should also say that the bear is all CGI, but to be honest, they had to. I don’t have issues with how it looked either.
I did want to go back to the story for one last thing. How we get all these characters into the park felt natural. We have the Liz and Peter there for work. Dee Dee is upset so she gets her friend to come with her. Sari is going after her. Eddie and Daveed are forced by Syd and then you have Bob also looking for the drugs. I believed it without question.
Next will be the acting. Russell is good as our lead. I like her as a single mother doing what she can to provide for her daughter while also trying to live her life. Ehrenreich is good. I like that he’s sad in the beginning and this ordeal changes him. Him and Jackson play well of each other. It is sad to see one of the last roles for Liotta. He’s good as this drug kingpin. Whitlock and Convery bring comedy to their roles that I liked. Prince, Martindale, Ferguson, Kristofer Hivju, Smart and the rest of the cast also rounded this out for what was needed. All the performances know what they need to do and it works.
In conclusion, this is another movie to come out this year that is a lot of fun. It knows what it is doing and has fun with it. We get an absurd concept that is oddly grounded. There is a good blend of comedy and horror. The effects are solid, including the CGI. This is just a well-made movie overall from the cinematography to the soundtrack. Don’t take this too seriously, just shut off your brain and go with this animal attack film. Even Jaime would agree as we cracked up watching it together. This movie is made for that.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10