3 1/2 Stars

Cocaine Bear (2023)

Black Bear, Black Bear, what did you consume?

Not since Snakes on a Plane has a movie’s premise been so wrapped in it’s title more so than Cocaine Bear.

As someone who has never used cocaine (and never plans to), all of my “experiences” with cocaine (or other drugs for that matter) have been through media (though, if I am to believe old rumors, some in my high school graduating class may know something about these endeavors).

Oddly enough, this film is based on true events when, in 1985, a black bear consumed some cocaine that was ousted out of a plane by drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II (portrayed briefly in the film’s intro by Matthew Rhys). 

The film ends up becoming a true ensemble piece of sorts, mostly lead by Keri Russell as Sari, single mom nurse whose daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Price, the breakout star of the very underseen 2017 gem The Florida Project) has blew off school to paint a waterfall with her best friend Henry (Christian Convery, who easily steals all the scenes he is in). 

At the same time, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), a grieving widow and ex drug dealer, is forced back into the game to assist his dad Syd (Ray Liotta, in his final film performance) recover the missing cocaine in the forest.

From the trailer, one could think of this as another “schlock” film (i.e., “so bad it is good”)*. Yet it is somehow laborious to see it like that when you look at the already aforementioned talented cast as well as the rest. This includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Jesse Tyler Ferguson (who I admit was hard to recognize for a moment, despite how many episodes I have seen of Modern Family), and that one of a kind sublime character actress, Margo Martindale.

Although this is the first of her full length films that I have seen, this is actress/director Elizabeth Banks’ third directorial feature (well, fourth, if you include the segment she directed in the repulsive 2013 “film” Movie 43). While not a brilliant filmmaker (at least compared to big name directors), she still is sagacious enough to make the audience feel the characters’ fear as well as fanciful confusion in the peculiar situations they are in.

Parents….what do you think? I mean, it is a rated R movie about a bear that snorts cocaine and kills people. It is rated R, and while there is very little sexual content,… yeah, don’t take your kids to this.

It is always a plus when we as humans can pick apart movies and dissect them, saying what the director is trying to represent and/or how he/she sees the world. We ask questions like “Why is this scene shot from far away?”, “Why is the screen lit like this?”, “Why is the camera shifting like this?”, etc. 

This is not that kind of movie. It is a movie about the (possible) effects of a bear on cocaine. It is that simple.

You don’t need to be on drugs to find that out.

*Note: Before seeing this film, a group of friends of mine did prepare me for it by having me watch a true schlock film called The Velocipastor. Shout outs are in order to Justus, Carter, Chase, Myles, and Michael.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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