From the first scene to the last, Cocaine Bear is a thrillride chock full of physical humour and comic dialogue
Cocaine Bear, director Elizabeth Banks’ third feature film and screenwriter Jimmy Warden’s second produced script, hit theatres last week. The film has a strong ensemble cast, including Kerri Russell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).
The story begins in the sky with a drug smuggler tossing duffle bags packed with cocaine out of a small plane. In the Chattahoochee National Park below, a black bear discovers the cocaine, ingests it by the brick, and goes on a drug-fueled killing spree in search of food (always humans) and its next fix. Not long after, the ensemble cast venture separately into the Chattahoochee for different reasons: a worried mother, with the help of a grumpy forest ranger, searches for her young daughter and her daughter’s friend; two bickering drug dealers, joined by a young man who tried to rob them, scour the forest for their boss’ cocaine, while a goofy police detective hunts them down; and, later, the drug dealers’ boss joins his men to ensure they’re making progress. What follows is ninety minutes of action and comedy in which the characters face off against each other and the bear.
Though the plot sounds fictional, it’s based on true events. According to Global News, “ex-narcotics officer-turned-drug smuggler Andrew Thornton … came up with a drug smuggling operation that involved dropping packages of cocaine from Colombia out of a Cessna 404 Titan plane into the Tennessee Valley.” However, Thornton’s brazen plan went wrong when, convinced he was being followed, he dumped his cocaine into the Chattahoochee National Forest. Reportedly, a bear discovered and ate some of Thornton’s cocaine. That’s when reality ends and Cocaine Bear begins.
Cocaine Bear is well-plotted and fast-paced. The first act introduces the film’s many characters without being too long or information-heavy. In the second act, the many storylines intersect smoothly as the characters fight against each other and the bear. The climax and denouement are predictable, as they should be in a film that plays on the tropes and clichés of the action-comedy genre.
The characters are developed just enough to drive the plot. Each character is distinct and has discernable quirks and mannerisms. None of them has depth or an interesting backstory, but that’s to be expected; the film is an action-comedy, not a dramatic character exploration.
Part of the reason the film is so funny is because it doesn’t take itself seriously. Banks plays the human-versus-beast fight sequences for laughs instead of horror. Physical humour is well-balanced against humorous dialogue. And many of the characters don’t appreciate the severity of their situation, which adds an absurdity to the film.
Cocaine Bear is a silly ninety-minute comedy-thriller, so it needs to be assessed in that context. It’s funny, fun, and entertaining. It will satisfy lovers of special effects, human-versus-beast movies, action-comedies, and cornball horror. Anybody who wants a fresh movie experience will enjoy it. Two thumbs up!