Loosely based on true events, this horror-comedy from Elizabeth Banks can be best described as a “what if” movie but fun regardless.
In 1985, Andrew C. Thornton II was responsible for unloading packages of cocaine from a plane, which land in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Nashville, Tennessee. Thornton had fallen out of the plane in a freak accident. As for the cocaine, a black bear has ingested some of the drugs and goes after a tourist couple from Europe, decimating the wife, forcing the husband to flee. When a middle schooler Dee Dee goes with her buddy Henry to the forest, they find a package of the drugs but find themselves confronted the bear.
Sari, Dee Dee’s mother, heads to the forest along with park ranger Beth and wildlife expert Peter, who are also attacked by the bear with Sari escaping with Henry, who tells him the bear only has taken Dee Dee but not killing her. Meanwhile, the owner of the drugs, St. Louis-based drug lord Syd White has learned of the missing drugs and gets his son Eddie and Eddie’s friend Daveed to head to get the drugs back. Along with three redneck guys and a Tennessee cop, Bob, their paths will eventually cross not only as targets of the bear, but to each other as well.
Based on a real-life incident in 1985 when an American black bear ingested cocaine in the forest, the film can be described if what if the bear didn’t die of an overdose (which it did in real-life), but what if it had survived and it became a rabid beast? The answer lies in this film from Elizabeth Banks, who makes this a horror-comedy with the bear doing the horror and the interactions between the human characters sometimes pretty funny. All to a great nostalgic soundtrack.
Keri Russell is great as Sari, a concerned mother looking for her daughter Dee Dee, played by Brooklynn Prince, the breakout star of The Florida Project. We also have Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s son) as Eddie and Daveed, two guys hired to retrieve the drugs that were dropped from the forest. Along the way, they get into a brawl with three locals, one of whom decides to help them after fighting a losing battle.
One of the highlights of the film is a chase scene where the bear follows an ambulance that has Margo Martindale’s hilarious park ranger Liz and two EMTs as we hear Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough” playing. The late Ray Liotta makes the most of his screen time as Syd White, the drug lord whose stuff is the cause of everything gone wrong and he soon finds himself hellbent on getting the drugs back when it seems Eddie and Daveed are not going fast enough to get them back, even after they see the bear even ingest a full brick. The final act takes quite a very interesting twist and altogether goes out very well.
Cocaine Bear is a fun “what if” film that has some funny moments along with some crazy moments from the titular bear. Definitely worth checking out!
WFG RATING: B+
Universal Pictures presents a Brownstone/Lord Miller production. Director: Elizabeth Banks. Producers: Elizabeth Banks, Brian Duffield, Max Handelman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Aditya Sood. Writer: Jimmy Warden. Cinematography: John Guleserian. Editing: Joel Negron.
Cast: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Brooklynn Prince, Christian Covery, Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra.