COCAINE BEAR – Review by Susan Granger
According to the news in 1985, 40 pounds of cocaine was dropped from a bungled aerial drug run into the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia in September; the 175-pound black bear that ate much of it was found dead in December.
While the action-comedy caper Cocaine Bear is loosely based on that story, screenwriter Jimmy Warden depicts a much different situation – following a giant, cocked-up, apex predator on a rampage through the woods, hunting for as much blow as possible.
It opens with a drug smuggler (Matthew Rhys) tossing the cocaine out of a plane, only to plunge to his death because of an unopened parachute.
The first packet is found by two naïve 12 year-olds – Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convey) – who dare each other to try it, much to the chagrin of Dee Dee’s divorced mother (Keri Russell).
After that, various packets are found by vacationing hikers, delinquent teenagers, forest ranger (Margo Martindale), PETA inspector/biologist (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), EMTs (Scott Seiss, Kahyun Kim), and drug dealers – with the voracious bear in crazed pursuit.
Meanwhile, local law officers (Isiah Whitlock Jr, Ayoola Smart) connect the drop to a broader drug operation run by a notorious kingpin (Ray Liotta), who dispatches his son (Alden Ehrenreich) and cohort (O’Shea Jackson Jr) to retrieve the white powder.
Director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie’s Angels) confessed that she deliberately made the film more muscular and masculine in an attempt to combat the mythology about what kinds of movies women are interested in making, telling Variety: “I love gore. The gore is part of the fun of the ride.”
Allan Henry, a motion-capture/stunt performer, worked with the actors on the set, while the formidable CGI ‘bear’ was created by Peter Jackson’s Weta FX in New Zealand. And if you’re intrigued Blow, The True Story of Cocaine, a Bear and a Crooked Kentucky Cop is streaming on YouTube.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Cocaine Bear is a silly, contrived 5, streaming on Prime Video and Apple TV+.