REVIEW: Cocaine Bear – A Bear Out Of Hell

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Cocaine Bear? We all have that weird cinema goblin friend who’s seen it and is more than likely raving about it. I, for one, know that we at LSM have been dying to put out this review for a little while. Having seen this just tonight (as of writing), I’m sadly quite late on the Cocaine Bear bandwagon. That said, for having seen it I can vindicate that weird cinema goblin friend of yours by saying that this movie is so much fun – an absolute gem. It’s not without flaws mind you, and the concept really carries this film, but see it with your friends and it is definitely worth a watch.

Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way – this movie is about a big black bear that does a lot of cocaine in the Georgian woods and, when the film doubles down on that concept, it shines. The bear for one looks incredible for how low budget this movie is, brought to life by Weta Workshop in New Zealand. They’ve managed to make the bear lovable, but make her attacks absolutely horrifying bloody displays. Despite this, there is never really any tonal dissonance. The director, Elizabeth Banks, builds an incredible amount of tension and suspense whenever the eponymous Cocaine Bear is on the screen. There are scraps of thematic vision too; the Cocaine Bear herself, with her cubs is mirrored with a badass mother character played by Keri Russell, looking for her daughter who is lost in the woods.

Throughout this film I came to the conclusion that, in fact, I’m rooting for the Cocaine Bear… she’s so fun. The people she kills aren’t actually helping themselves, so to see these absolute goons get mauled by a bear is morbidly entertaining in the absolute best sense. More importantly though is that she just looks so happy ripping through bricks and bricks of coke, giving each one a big ol’ sniff.

The soundtrack for this film is interesting – the 80s aesthetic in the score is kept throughout, with some fun needle drops. One of the main characters’ poster-filled bedrooms shows us a pretty good sample of what’s to come during the movie’s soundtrack.  My favourite needle drop is easily Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” played during a high-octane chase involving the Cocaine Bear and an ambulance.

The cast of characters that happen to appear alongside the Cocaine Bear are fine, good even, but let’s be honest here, we’re all watching this film for the Bear. There are some fun performances from Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. Taking on the role of hapless gangster types looking for cocaine dropped in the woods by a dancing Matthew Rhys, who looked unrecognisable. However, my personal standout casting choice is the esteemed character actress Margo Martindale, taking on the role of a horny park ranger who barely breaks a sweat switching from lovestruck to gun-toting hooligan. Ray Liotta in his last film before his tragic passing is something to bring up too – the stoney faced villain he plays reminds me slightly of his role at the end of Goodfellas.

All this being said, the film is not perfect. While I said when the film sticks to its concept it shines, it sadly doesn’t stick to its concept all too much. It tries to inject drama into the dynamics behind the human characters, and that’s to the film’s detriment. Whenever people started talking and the bear was nowhere to be seen, my interest waned rapidly, even Lord and Miller as producers couldn’t save what I think is a fairly choppy script. Nevertheless, there is some interesting development from some of the characters, a highlight being Aaron Holliday, playing an annoying teenager.

Despite its very notable weaknesses, I had a good time watching Cocaine Bear. It’s nothing pretentious, except for being an icon of pop culture that we should all see. Quoting Christy Lemire from, “There will be Before ‘Cocaine Bear’ and After ‘Cocaine Bear’. This is how we will mark time from now on as a society”, and I truly believe this. Do yourself a favour while this movie is in cinemas, see this film and drag your friends along with you.

Images: Universal

Jeevan Bhogal is a third-year student studying BA International Relations and History. His biggest interest in journalism is in the medium of film, especially the politics surrounding film. Find him on Instagram: @jeevanjay7

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