Cocaine Bear [Film Review]

Cocaine Bear
Released: February 23, 2023

Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, Alden Ehrenreich, Christian Convery, Ray Liotta, Kristofer Hivju and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

A title like Cocaine Bear might sound like a Sharknado-style cringefest worth avoiding but this is actually inspired by a true story and like all great movies based on true stories – e.g. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – only about 2% of this story is factual and that’s the part where a bear consumed an unhealthy amount of cocaine. While they could have just made a movie about what happened to the bear posthumously which is a crazy story all on it’s own, writer Jimmy Warden has given us a “what if?” alternative. What if the bear had come across a bunch of tourists while high on cocaine?

Hannah Hoekstra as Elsa in Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Back in 1985, Andrew Thornton died from a parachuting accident while smuggling cocaine – the same cocaine a Black Bear found in the woods and ate – and this is where the film starts. We’ve got a dead drug smuggler, a couple out hiking, police on the hunt for where the drugs might have ended up, drug dealers trying to find the stash before the police do, a trio of teen thugs, two kids who ditched school to go paint at a waterfall and horny Ranger Liz who is put out that some woman has come along distracting her man candy by wanting to find her missing child…. all while a drug fucked bear is on a killing rampage looking for more cocaine.

Margot Martindale gives a standout performance as the ranger desperate for some loving. This 71 year old is proving you’re never too old to star in an action movie: she’s snarky, gets her ass beat by a bear and has a total inability to aim her gun and she’s only mildly apologetic about it. Another scene-stealer was Christian Convery who plays the school-ditching Henry. That kid is 12 going on 40. He’s having a day and he’s done with it.

(from left) Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), Stache (Aaron Holliday) and Ponytail (Leo Hanna) in Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Despite an MA15+ rating, a fair amount of the bear-related violence is off screen but they don’t hold back on showing us the blood and guts of it all. Maybe that was a choice since it’s a CGI bear, but sometimes less is more. Personally, I don’t think it took anything away from the film not being able to watch a leg get gnawed off.

If the packed cinema tonight was anything to go by, Cocaine Bear is 95 minutes of non-stop laughs with just enough flying body parts to make you cringe and one scene in particular made the guy sitting next to us cringe quite a bit. There was no missing his uncomfortable groans. I even caught my friend covering her eyes a few times. Intestines are not her cup of tea it seems and it’s possible she will never trust me again when I tell her “it’s just a comedy“. Myself on the other hand, grinned from start to finish. Who doesn’t love limbs flying across the screen?

I loved every single minute of this movie. It’s hilarious. It’s got a fantastic script, acting, awesome make up work and the bear looks incredible. Elizabeth Banks is underrated as a director and I hope this film gets her some more attention in Hollywood. If not, I look forward to the rumoured Cocaine Shark film she wants to make next after New Zealand police found 3.5 tons of cocaine in the Pacific Ocean earlier this month. Real life will never stop being an inspiration.

Review by Katie Torrance
Score: 4/5

Cocaine Bear is now showing in cinemas across Australia through Universal Pictures.
Find tickets here.

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Horror snob