The Reel Review
Keri Russell, Ray Liotta and Margo Martindale star in this Elizabeth Banks-directed dark comedy/thriller about a huge black bear in the North Georgia mountains that gets gacked out on a huge stash of cocaine and goes on a deadly rampage, terrorizing residents, criminals, law enforcement and pre-teen hikers in its hunt for another fix. It is VERY loosely based on an actual 1985 incident.
Similar to other ridiculously silly animals-run-amok type films such as Snakes on a Plane, Piranha and Sharknado, just the idea of Cocaine Bear is way funnier than the actual film, although 1980s era pop tunes and a synthesizer-heavy score help add even more surreal goofiness – and yes, even some laugh out loud moments – to this mindless and surprisingly gory comedy. Cocaine Bear is not a film for the squeamish.
The supporting cast includes Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Russell and Martindale’s The Americans co-star Matthew Rhys (in an early cameo as the ill-fated drug smuggler) and a scene stealing Christian Convery (Sweet Tooth) as one of the terrorized pre-teen hikers. The uneven screenplay starts to meander by its weak finale, but at just over an hour and a half, Cocaine Bear and its better-than-expected CGI still has enough giggles for it to not completely blow, including that memorable sight of the marauding bear gleefully snorting coke off the severed leg of one of its victims.
• Here is the actual story of “the cocaine bear”: In 1985, a black bear in North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest consumed of whopping 74 pounds of cocaine that had been dropped from a drug runner’s private plane. It was found dead, its stomach completely full, after the drug smuggler’s body landed in a Knoxville, Tennessee neighborhood, presumably having struck his head on the tail of his Cessna while trying to parachute out, with the plane having crashed in North Carolina.
• Although set in the North Georgia mountains, Cocaine Bear was filmed in County Wicklow, Ireland.
• Cocaine Bear was Ray Liotta’s final film. Liotta died in his sleep while in the Dominican Republic in May 2022, a week after re-recording his lines in post-production.
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