Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear combines simple horror with white-dusted humour within this absurdity.

Credit: The Film Stage

Few could guess what would come of a drug drop gone wrong. Not even Andrew C. Thorton, forever remembered as the smuggler who died from a failed parachute after throwing forty containers of cocaine from a plane. You would think that that is all there is to the story, but no. A large portion of said substance would find it’s way inside the stomach of a bear. Said bear, appropriately named Pablo Eskobear, was discovered dead months later and stuffed. The bear is currently in the state of Kentucky at the Kentucky Fun Mall. Hearing this, most people would think something like this only happens in a movie.

Well, turns out they would be half-right

Depending on who you asked, perhaps it wouldn’t be as surprising that someone would make a movie based on it. This someone would be screenwriter Jimmy Warden, who would inspiration from the real event to create an exaggerated, ridiculous horror-comedy adaption. Elizabeth Banks, having previously directed Pitch Perfect 2 and Charles Angels (2019), would direct and produce this film.

The premise is simple: a female North American Black Bear, named “Cokey” on set, devours a large quantity of cocaine and goes on a murderous rampage looking for more. Now, bears are dangerous enough on their own without being on drugs. Here, however, the notch is taken up to eleven. With coke sprinkled on top for good measure. 

Credit: Man of Many

Cocaine Bear comes bearing a stellar cast. Margo Martindale is a sassy, under-qualified park ranger. Isiah Whitlock Jr portrays a dog-loving detective searching for the drugs. Keri Russel depicts a frantic mum looking for her daughter. Ray Liotta also shows up as an unsympathetic drug kingpin in the third act. Liotta sadly passed away after filming concluded, with Elizabeth Banks dedicating the film to him. Rest In Peace, Ray. The rest of the cast all do a good job as well. Some of them also put on southern accents for their roles. Put these people together in a forest with bricks of cocaine scattered around plus a stoned bear, you have a recipe for complete, utter, absurdity.

Couldn’t give a review without mentioning the man of the hour. Or bear in this case. Comical, unpredictable, unrelenting and utterly terrifying, “Cokey” is far from the typical movie monster. Going from hunting people in one instance to behaving like a concussed idiot the next, the bear provides gore and laughs wherever it goes. It has so much character its sometimes easy to forget it’s a killer bear. The creators brought the bear to life using good practical effects plus some decent, albeit sometimes shaky, CGI.

Cocaine Bear is certainly not lacking in its own gory brand of laughs. Some of it can be derived from the sheer absurdity of the premise and how it interlocks with the characters and the bear. There is also a general lack of seriousness among the characters that illustrate just how silly the film treats itself. This parody-like brand of humour doesn’t always fit in with a horror movie, but this film manages to find the right balance. It may be different from the type of humour that everyone can enjoy. Still, those who appreciate these kinds of movies will leave entertained and amused.

The Verdict?

Credit: Variety

The creators not only do an excellent job with the casting and humour but with the costuming as well. With the movie in northeast Georgia in 1985, the character’s outfits are a good match for that era. These include Keri Russel’s pink tracksuit and Ray Liotta’s drug kingpin outfit. They are on display at Universal CityWalk Hollywood along with other costumes from the set.

Overall, this film can best be labelled as one of those movies that does not take itself seriously and the audience understands why. Unlike some horror comedies, Cocaine Bear succeeds in finding a balance between the two genres that elevates the movie instead of stagnating it. Add in a great choice of cast, a killer bear, gory kills and cocaine, Cocaine Bear is the type of movie that people can just sit down and enjoy. 

Check out the official trailer below:

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