Cocaine Bear: Fun But Too Frenetic

Charlie von Peterffy / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Cocaine Bear provides more fun than fumbles, with tons of witty humor, solid performances, and a degree of self-awareness through its silly approach to the concept that all make for a generally enjoyable time. However, it does have significant flaws. For the first two acts, the film struggles to flesh out its characters well, so they feel more like stand-ins for the bear to victimize than actual people facing a dangerous threat. Many of the film’s jokes also fail to amuse, as much of the writing is flat. The biggest issue, however, is the film’s third act; everything that makes the movie fun falls apart at this point. All storytelling rules fly out the window, the script becomes bloated, and almost everything that occurs is illogical. The last act still has its moments, but for the most part, it wrecks the more evenly paced and better planned beginning two-thirds. By its end, there are plenty of B-movie laughs, gore, and terror to satisfy, but at a cost to the film’s characters, consistency, and story-building.

Based on a true story, Cocaine Bear follows the story of an American black bear in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia, after a drug drop goes wrong. Several packages of cocaine get dropped, only for the deliverer to knock himself unconscious as he jumps out of the plane—killing himself—a bear discovers the cocaine and quickly becomes hooked. The story follows different groups of people, such as a family, a sheriff, the leader of the drug operation responsible for the drop, and fellow drug dealers, as they all discover and come into conflict with the bear. As each group grapples with their predicament, they also explore what it means to fulfill the roles assigned to them (e.g., mother as protector; sheriff as enforcer). In short, this encounter with a bear driven mad by cocaine is terrifying and forces the characters to reevaluate their lives. As victory eventually ensues, these characters’ self-understanding is undone.

Watching a cocaine-driven bear rage through a national park—and how the film’s many characters cope—is both funny and anxiety-inducing. Although simple, the film successfully weaves different storylines together. Regardless of their flaws, each storyline is pretty entertaining. There is something funny with them and something to learn from each. These qualities give the film more integrity than expected from a B-movie, as everything remains consistent until the third act. Writing quality, character depth, and storytelling rules fold when the third act begins. From here, everything turns into a muddy goose chase. The writing becomes melodramatic, the characters become thin, the bear devolves into a caricature, and the plot becomes nonsensical. It fails to conclude the conflict with more than two-dimensional predictability and people. The humor even descends into slapstick as the plot’s plausibility dissipates.

For the most part, at least until the third act, the acting is solid, and the writing is entertaining and relatable. The characters make the story enjoyable, as the film focuses on how they interact with each other and react to the bear with witty vulgarity and charm. They are consistent in their silly panic, making the story likable. The cast all do excellent jobs in their respective roles, which helps disguise much of their fictional counterparts’ flaws. Ray Liotta (Syd) deserves recognition, as this was his final role before his death in May 2022. While his role as a high-rising drug dealer is less than complete, Liotta does a fine job capturing Syd’s spirit and personality. He helps to bring Cocaine Bear to life, even if it frequently claws at thin air.

The visuals are stellar. Real or not, most of the bear and action sequences are exceptionally well choreographed and rendered. The bear is terrifyingly real, whether or not the filmmakers implemented a CG model. The violence is bloody, heavy anxiety-inducing fuel, making great eye candy for blood-and-guts enthusiasts. The humor, more often than not, is also well executed. While many of the jokes are bland or don’t fit, more are well-timed and sharply penned. For many, the visuals and gags are what make movies worth watching. Fans of that simplicity will be satisfied with their tickets. For others, it depends on how much the visuals and likable cast can disguise a film’s shortcomings.

Overall, Cocaine Bear makes for enjoyable action-comedy viewing. When it comes to humor and visual thrills, it delivers elegantly. Unfortunately, its characters, overall story, and writing suffer, especially in the film’s third-act mad dash to the end. Starting strong, the film quickly evaporates into loud, incoherent nonsense. The stakes fall to the wayside, the character-to-audience connection cuts and all dialogue hollows out. It spends more time in deeper waters, but even then, the film maintains only a moderate level of character-building, storytelling trickery, and above-average performances from its core cast. This film is sure to please those looking for simple, loud fun. For those looking for anything other than that, this film will probably disappoint.

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button