Mark Heinz: If You Can Stomach The Gore, You’ll Actually Root For ‘Cocaine Bear’

Cowboy State Daily Movie Review: Like cocaine itself, Cocaine Bear is an exercise in completely reckless abandon. Its a manifestation of that special American brand of excess that Van Halen front man David Lee Roth summed up perfectly when he said, If two is good, then 10 is better.

MH
Mark Heinz

February 24, 20236 min read

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A few years ago, a buddy and I were cutting dead timber for firewood in the Snowy Range Mountains. 

A man suddenly appeared – with a Beretta handgun on his hip – frantically gesturing for us to come over. We wondered what the hell was up. He led us to his campsite and pointed toward his crew-cab pickup. 

All four door handles had been ripped off. 

“Bear,” he said. “Big ****ing bear. He came in the night and did this. That’s why I have this (gesturing toward his Beretta). You guys need to be careful.”

We don’t have grizzlies (yet) in my neck of Wyoming. But black bears – often mistaken for being completely docile and harmless – can be dangerous too.

Hence, when I venture out, especially alone, I usually have my good buddies Smith & Wesson with me. 

And indeed, some opening text for “Cocaine Bear” explains that while typically not as territorial as grizzlies, black bears can be aggressive. And when they do attack, they’re more likely to be bent on killing you, so you should fight back. 

And I thought to myself, “Not bad, Hollywood, somebody behind this movie actually did their research.”

But that’s about where the realism of “Cocaine Bear” ends – and the utterly absurd, ridiculous, gory and otherwise completely over-the-top fun begins. 

Like cocaine itself, “Cocaine Bear” is an exercise in completely reckless abandon. It’s a manifestation of that special American brand of excess that Van Halen front man David Lee Roth summed up perfectly when he said, “If two is good, then 10 is better.”

Yep, this movie cranks it up to 10, and then just keeps going.

And I thought it was outright hysterical.

Not For The Weak Of Stomach 

Make no mistake, if you don’t like excessive (although somewhat cartoonish) gore, f-bombs galore and constant drug references (including some involving kids) then this movie isn’t for you. 

My wife went with me. And although she frequently laughed out loud, she ultimately wasn’t overly impressed.

“It was like the slasher films from the ‘80s and 90s’ – with a lot of gore and a twist of humor. It was entertaining, I give it two stars,” she said.

But if you’ve got a slightly warped, dark sense of humor and an appreciation for ridiculous irony, chances are you’ll love it. 

You just can’t take it too seriously. 

The premise is simple. Drug dealers lose a huge stash of cocaine in a Georgia national park after the guy charged with air-dropping it into the heavily forested mountains, and then parachuting in after it, screws up and kills himself. 

And that part is actually true. In 1985, a drug runner died exactly that way. And a black bear did find some of the cocaine, ate it and was later found dead from an overdose. 

“Cocaine Bear” director Elizabeth Banks explains she based the film on a “what if” premise. As in, what if the coked-up bear had actually survived and gone on a rampage?

And as far as the movie’s basic storyline goes – that’s about it. It’s not long before blood is spurting and body parts are flying as the titular bear essentially develops blow-induced superpowers. 

So while it certainly isn’t on the level of “Apocalypse Now” (one of my all-time favorite films), “Cocaine Bear” doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t and does what is does very well. 

Basically, it’ll make you laugh your ass off and then think, “Wait, why am I laughing at this? What is wrong with me?” 

Dark humor at its finest.

But Wait, There’s More … 

All that said, I was actually surprised at the level of character development in “Cocaine Bear,” and that includes the bear. 

The human cast does admirably. Keri Russell plays a nurse and single mom who gets sucked into a situation where she very much has to be a “momma bear” and do whatever it takes to protect her child. 

In one of his final performances, Ray Liotta plays a basic bad guy as the head of the drug running ring. 

But he’s also got sympathetic problems. He’s been left in charge of his grandson because his son (played by Alden Eherreich) – who is also part of the drug ring – has suffered a complete emotional breakdown after being recently widowed. 

O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s son) turns in an admirable performance as one of the “bad guys” who might not be so bad after all. 

Amid the fountains of blood and clouds of cocaine, there are some interesting human story threads that are mostly tied up by the end of the film (at least for the humans who aren’t ripped into hamburger).

Rooting For The Snorting Bear

And the bear itself (a product of decently-done CGI) isn’t simply just a basic monster movie killing machine. No, this bruin has challenges and motives of its own beyond a raging addiction to Himalayan snow. 

Indeed, there’s a twist to the bear’s situation that is actually … dare I say … ummm …

… touching?

So, in sum, while you certainly might cringe at the graphic ways in which some of the human cast are forcibly disassembled, you might find yourself actually rooting for the “Cocaine Bear.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, there are definitely plenty of doors left open for a sequel, meaning this line might not have been fully snorted. “Cocaine Bear” could develop into the next franchise in the absurd tradition of “Sharknado.”  

Let’s hope so.

GRADE: Four stars out of five.

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MH

Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter