Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!
Sometimes, you know exactly what you’re going to get from a film simply because of the name. Cocaine Bear is that sort of movie. This is very loosely based on a story of a cocaine smuggler dropping a few bales of cocaine out of his plane and then jumping…and dying from a faulty chute. The cocaine was, the story goes, eaten by a bear, that quickly expired from eating enough cocaine to fuel an army and all of its logistics officers. Naturally, we’re going to take that real world “bear ate cocaine” idea and do a lot more interesting things with the bear.
Essentially, the start of the film is exactly that. Andrew Thornton (Matthew Rhys) tosses some bags of coke out of a low-flying plane and, as he is preparing to jump out of the plane after the coke, slips, bangs his head on the door, and slips out of the plane, unconscious and falling to his doom. The cocaine ends up spread across the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest while Thornton’s body splats onto someone’s driveway in Knoxville. Since Thornton was a known smuggler, he is quickly identified by local detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who determines that the cocaine found around the body belongs to St. Louis drug dealer Syd White (Ray Liotta, in his final film).
So what’s going to happen are a bunch of disparate stories are going to merge. First, naturally, is the bear, which eats a bunch of the cocaine and acts pretty much like you’d expect a bear that ate a bunch of cocaine to act. This starts with an attack on a pair of hikers (Kristofer Hivju and Hannah Hoekstra), one of whom is killed. Also happening is Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery) skip school and go wandering into the forest, where they find a brick of cocaine, and naturally find the bear as well. They will be pursued by Dee Dee’s mother Sari (Keri Russell). A trio of low-rent delinquents (Aaron Holliday, Leo Hanna, and J.B. Moore) harass a local ranger (Margo Martindale), who has a bit of a crush on wildlife activist Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). And finally, Syd has sent his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and cohort Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to retrieve what cocaine they can from the plane.
As you likely expect, all of these stories are going to connect, with the cocaine bear as the point of connection. When the bear attacks the ranger’s shack and kills off a few people, an ambulance is called in, and EMTS Beth (Kahyun Kim) and Tom (Scott Seiss) are added to the list of potential victims of the cocaine bear.
It's probably not going to come as a shock that a good percentage of this film is essentially creature feature along the lines of Grizzly or The Prophecy. This is far closer to Piranha than it is to Jaws in that it’s trying to be fun and funny, and more gross than scary. This doesn’t rise to the level of a horror movie, but it also doesn’t attempt to rise to that level. It also manages to pack in an entirely separate genre here. Without the inclusion of the bear, we essentially have a mob film. Syd White is missing his cocaine and wants it back, and he is being actively pursued by Detective Bob, while the three juvenile criminals are finding bales of cocaine for themselves. If you don’t have a giant black bear eating cocaine, you still have a movie about missing drugs where everyone wants to kill each other.
A big part of Cocaine Bear is about giving the audience what it wants, and the fan service in this case is having people attacked and mutilated by a wildly overdrugged bear. And so, we’re going to get plenty of limbs ripped asunder heads knocked off, and more. There’s death a-plenty in Cocaine Bear, and while there are a couple of people killed by gunfire, most of them are ravaged by the enraged bear.
The truth is that Cocaine Bear isn’t a good movie, but it doesn’t want to be a good movie. It’s a fun movie, and that’s what it’s trying to be. It’s entertaining and features people having their faces ripped off by a bear, so what’s not to love if that’s what you’re in the mood for. That said, I find it shocking that, in a movie where the plot begins with bales of cocaine falling from a low-flying plane that they couldn’t get the rights to the Reverend Horton Heat song Bales of Cocaine in which the protagonist of the song has…bales of cocaine fall from low-flying planes on his farm. C’mon!
Why to watch Cocaine Bear: The title doesn’t do it for you?
Why not to watch: Seriously, no Reverend Horton Heat?