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Cocaine Bear

Year: 2023
Studio: Universal
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Jimmy Warden
Cast: Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Alden Ehrenreich, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Brooklyn Prince, Ray Liotta, Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Fetguson

This film has something in common with another one I watched recently, Cockneys vs Zombies. How? A movie called Cocaine Bear couldn't possibly put its premise any more front and centre. It'd be easy to do it lazy with only the lowest of low hanging fruit gags, and doing that would be a cinch in a 10 minute Youtube short or even a 30 minute sitcom. But in a 90 minute movie you better have more.

Cocaine Bear only just scrapes by that requirement, and only some of the time. You come for the bear but stay for the characters and story, and the story kind of runs out of steam, especially in the climactic scenes.

But even though it might be a better value proposition on streaming rather than paying for a ticket, there are enough laughs and violence to make it worth your time.

It's indeed based on a true case where a drug mule dumped a consignment of coke out of a light plane over the backwoods of Georgia, and a bear did in fact get into and eat some of it – although it supposedly only ingested a small amount before dropping dead from an overdose nearby, the rest of it melting away in the weather in the months after it landed.

In this version, by writer Jimmy Warden and director Elizabeth Banks, the bear finds the stash and eats enough to go berserk, with both a frenzied bloodlust and an insatiable thirst for more.

An oddball collection of characters descend on the area for various reasons, not all of them to do with the coke, and all fall foul of the rampaging beast's wrath.

There's harried young single mother Sari (Keri Russell), who's looking for her truant daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) when the latter cuts school with young friend Henry.

Crime footsoldier Daveed (O'shea Jackson Jr) is dispatched to the area to search for the missing stash, dragging his friend Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) along. Eddie's the son of the drug enterprise kingpin (Ray Liotta) but he can't get over the recent death of his wife and wants nothing but forgiveness for everyone – including the three local bozos the pair fall foul of.

Eccentric park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale, and I can't hear her name without thinking of Bojack Horseman) thinks she's running a high stakes law enforcement institution but falls to pieces from her lust for the local bear expert when he arrives.

There's also no-nonsense Atlanta cop Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr), who found the unfortunate mule's body in suburban Knoxville in the beginning and is now on the trail of the missing stash that crashed somewhere in the forest.

They all come together, splinter apart and cross paths violently in their individual quests to find the people they love or the drugs, all while being stalked by a very aggressive bear with only two things on her mind; coke and blood.

Banks and her effects team certainly don't scrimp on gore and you're reminded of the story of Pacific Air 121, which was the more serious version (with a more serious tone) of what became the more fun-loving Snakes on a Plane. A PG version of this same tale would be far less interesting.

But even though the moments of outrageous comedy and comic violence give the proceedings enough of a jolt to keep your investment and heart rate up, it's a little flabby even at only 95 minutes long.

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