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Review: Cocaine Bear

Based on a ridiculous true story, Cocaine Bear roared into theaters this past weekend and mostly delivers on the insanity you would expect based on the title and premise.

In 1985, a drug smuggler, Andrew C. Thornton III (Matthew Rhys) drops a shipment of cocaine from his plane over the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest but his attempt to parachute out himself leads to him getting knocked unconscious and falling to his death.  The cocaine is found by a local black bear, who ingests the coke and becomes a bloodthirsty killing machine.  A whole host of characters end up in the woods with the bear, including a mother (Keri Russell) looking for her missing daughter, a pair of criminals looking to recover the drugs (Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr.), a cop who has been tracking the drug kingpin behind the coke (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and a trigger happy park ranger (Margon Martindale).  The cast is stacked with excellent actors and they all do a great job with Martindale, Jackson Jr, and Ehrenreich probably being the standouts.  The one issue with such a large cast is that each character has its own subplot and character arc to develop, which takes time away from the main attraction, the Cocaine Bear.  There are long stretches, especially in the first half of the movie, where the bear disappears and we’re just focused on the characters.  There are some great interactions and jokes but it feels like a few of them could have been trimmed down so we could have gotten more bear rampaging.  The flip side is that fewer characters mean fewer targets for the bear, so there is a balance that needs to be achieved.  Not every character probably needed a full arc or subplot and could have been just cannon fodder for the Cocaine Bear but I guess if you’ve got such great actors, you want to use them.

As far as the Cocaine Bear herself, most of it is achieved via CG and while it looks somewhat cartoony, it mostly works and it helps that the whole tone of the movie is over the top and ridiculous.   If you saw something like RRR and weren’t bothered by the CG animals in that, you shouldn’t have any issues with Cocaine Bear.  The bear gets some personality and has some funny bits, like flopping on top of Alden Ehrenreich at one point or rolling around playfully when high on coke.  It’s still a vicious killing machine however and there are some solid, bloody kills, including one sequence involving an ambulance that is definitely one of the movie’s highlights and there are plenty of bloody limbs and blood splattering to live up to the movie’s R rating.  There’s nothing on the level of say, 2010’s Piranha, but it’s all solid, if not novel, violence.

Cocaine Bear delivers pretty much what you would expect from the title and premise, which is a ridiculous, bloody time.  The cast is supremely overqualified but helps that lend some gravitas to the movie while still keeping things funny and light and there are some fun, violent kills along with the laughs.  I don’t know if you need to immediately rush out and see Cocaine Bear but if you’re a fan of stuff like Piranha, it’s definitely worth checking out at some point.

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