My notes on Cocaine Bear
In 1985, Kentucky asshole Andrew Thornton – a former police officer venturing into the cocaine supply business – died when his parachute failed to open and he plummeted to earth with a big bag of drugs tethered to his person. He’d dumped many packages of cocaine from his plane – and one was eaten by a bear who very quickly died. That’s the inspiration for this bluntly-titled picture, which comes across as a mash-up of Grizzly/Prophecy and A Simple Plan/Shallow Grave … on the one hand, a she-bear has become a killer addict who reacts to cocaine by hulking out and offing people … on the other, a collection of fallible folk traipse through the woods in search of big money (or to rescue other folk) and the scattered bags. It winds up in an Aliens-style face-off between two alpha mamas, nurse/single mom Sari (Keri Russell) and the CGI ‘girl bear’, though neither is really a threat to the other – the bear’s job is to slaughter comic or crass characters we have little emotional investment in and whose ripped-off limbs and faces are a source of humour and Sari’s job is to save her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and her dry-wit pal Henry (Christian Convery) from harm.
Also in the woods are drug kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta), his grieving-and-uncommitted-to-crime son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), loyal and not-that-bad minion Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) and the longest-lasting of three inept backwoods muggers (Aaron Holliday). Everyone else –Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale), cop Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr), a lost camper (Kristofer Hivju), the other muggers (J.B. Moore, Leo Hanna), some paramedics (Scott Seiss, Kahyun Kim), a wildlife expert (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), more campers – are caricature idiots just here to get mangled for cheapish laughs. Matthew Rhys cameos as Thornton in an incoherent prologue that at least serves to scatter cocaine across the landscape.
It’s a fun ride (sort of) but feels a lot more like an expanded trailer than a finished film. This does better on delivering its promise than Snakes on a Plane did, but that’s a low bar to clear. You’ve probably got most of what you might want from the Cocaine Bear premise by watching the trailer – and the film doesn’t really have much to add (by contrast, Violent Night was a great trailer which didn’t give away all the good stuff in the eventual film). I’ve a queasy feeling this might be the beginning of the big-screen answer to the Sharknado franchise – something that’s officially a hoot, but actually a chore. Jimmy Warden, of the Babysitter films, scripts a few stretches of funny talk (he might well be influenced by Larry Cohen in some of the wayward character turns), and weirdly harps on grief as a theme for a feelgood splatter romp in the woods, and some of the cast wisely underplay. Elizabeth Banks puts it all together, but maybe this is just a ridiculous pitch rather than a proper movie. I think I enjoyed Grizzly and Prophecy more – maybe because they aren’t so certain they’re frickin’ hilarious.