Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Margo Martindale, Ray Liotta
Run Time: 95 mins
Cocaine Bear is the latest from actor-director Elizabeth Banks and is inspired by the outrageous true story of a black bear that died from an overdose of the fateful narcotic in 1985 at the Chattahoochee National Forest. However, Banks takes some liberties and allows the bear to go on a murderous spree. In reality, the events between the bear ingesting cocaine after it was dumped from an aeroplane and dying are unknown. Still, killer animal horror films can be immensely fun when done well and Cocaine Bear has a particularly ridiculous premise.
Cocaine Bear does what it says on the tin and is generally a fun ride from start to finish. As you’d expect, it’s fairly disposable and not profound in the slightest. The film reasonably balances its horror and comedy, although it’s never funny or scary enough as it could be. It’s well-paced and doesn’t outstay its welcome at a brisk 95 minutes. Banks and screenwriter Jimmy Warden, do a solid job at establishing and developing a collection of human characters for the bear to interact with.
Keri Russell is the closest the film has to a lead, playing a nurse called Sari. Russell’s had a varied career, a career low being a terrible supporting performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to making a reasonable lead in Antlers. This may be her best performance yet and Russell has sound comedic timing and clearly embraces the ridiculousness of the film. O’Shea Jackson Jr is a highlight, a crony of Ray Liotta’s (in one of his final roles) drug kingpin who sends him to the national park to try and retrieve the remaining cocaine. The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince also impresses with a committed performance as Sari’s daughter and Isiah Whitlock Jr gets some of the best lines as a local detective. Finally, Margo Martindale is brilliant as an inept park ranger.
The film is well shot by Candyman’s John Guleserian and generally has high production values. Much of the budget has gone into creating a CGI bear, with Lord of the Rings and Avatar: The Way of Water’s Wētā being the visual effects company responsible.
Cocaine Bear is ultimately a fun ride from start to finish that although isn’t as frightening or as comedic as it could be, is a more than passable enough way to spend 95 minutes.