Review: Cocaine Bear
Jess Cadogan has nothing but praise for Elizabeth Banks’ new careful, refreshingly hilarious retelling of a drug operation gone wild
Cocaine Bear – precisely what it says on the tin. Actor-turned-director Elizabeth Banks has nailed it with this hilariously camp slasher in which a black bear consumes enormous amounts of cocaine and rampages around a forest in 1980s Chattahoochee County, Georgia. Although based on a true story, many creative liberties were taken – first and foremost, the bear’s survival. In the real-life case, the bear, unfortunately, died almost immediately after ingesting the cocaine – a fact that Banks doesn’t take lightly as she has named her film a ‘revenge story’ for that bear who now stands, taxidermied in a Kentucky mall.
Despite the tragic events the film is based on, Banks and writer Jimmy Warden have found the perfect balance of nauseating body horror and comedy, even throwing some stellar jump scares into the mix. The bear is not known to have killed anyone in real life, but it makes for a fantastic story, and I can honestly say I’ve never laughed so hard at someone’s head being ripped off. Of course, the film doesn’t hold back on any of the gore, so bear that in mind when you’re ordering your popcorn, but it’s so ridiculously graphic that it becomes laughable as you look, wide-eyed, at a bear neatly do a line off of a disembodied leg.
The film doesn’t hold back on any of the gore, so bear that in mind when you’re ordering your popcorn
The pairing of the gore alongside heart-warming family stories was a surprising addition, but it works. Children swearing on the screen will always be funny, especially as Henry (played by a hilarious Christian Convery) scrambles up a tree and describes the bear the only way he can: “There was a bear; it was f*cked!”. However, the addition of children also allowed for a brilliant parallel between Sari (Keri Russell) trying to get Henry and her daughter to safety and the bear as a mother protecting her two cubs. The rocky friendship between Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) is another incredibly successful plotline that ends in a satisfying and well-executed manner, admittedly almost bringing me to tears.
Although you could easily critique some performances as lacking quality or the CGI bear’s production value, it didn’t affect my viewing experience. In fact, in some cases, the comedically hyper-dramatised performances made it funnier, especially the jarring southern accent from Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Peter, the camp wildlife inspector. Overall, the film is a perfect time: it doesn’t care, and I’m so on board.