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‘Cocaine Bear’ Review

The bear does cocaine.
February 24, 2023
‘Cocaine Bear’ Review

Sometimes a movie’s marketers have to get a little tricky to entice folks into the multiplex.

The Menu, for instance, was marketed as though it were a riff on “The Most Dangerous Game,” something like The Hunt by way of Pig. Strange World was marketed as a movie about the glories of exploration rather than a parable for global warming and a warning for humanity to stop trying to expand and settle for less. She Said was marketed as an awards-caliber film when it … well, you get the idea.

There’s no such guile with Cocaine Bear. The trailers for Cocaine Bear promised one thing, and one thing only: a bear finding cocaine in the woods, consuming said cocaine, and going into a murderous rage while high as hell.

And, on this very exact and limited scale, Cocaine Bear delivers precisely what is promised. A drug smuggler chucks tens of millions of dollars of cocaine out of an airplane. The cocaine is mostly lost, because the smuggler dies during the procedure. A bear finds some of the cocaine and gets high on it and starts attacking everyone he sees, including two school-aged kids, a mom looking for those kids, a park ranger helping the mom, and a pair of midlevel crooks dispatched by the dealer to find the last cargo. As well as other random hikers, a cop, another cop. You get the idea.

The gacked-out ursus does not discriminate when it comes to killing. And one thing Cocaine Bear delivers on—to an extent that I found pleasingly jarring, if I’m being entirely honest with you—is a shockingly high gore quotient. This is a hard-R country bear jamboree: limbs are separated from victims; guns blow holes through heads; faces get scraped off on the asphalt. Cue John Williams: “You will believe a black bear can gut a man and feed her babies with his entrails.”

There’s not really much to “review” here, exactly: Are you really curious how believable Keri Russell is as the mom trying to save her daughter? Do you want me to break down the arc of Ray Liotta’s issues with his kid and the importance of being a good father to your sons? That doesn’t seem like a good use of anyone’s time.

You’re either accepting of the premise or you aren’t. Do you want to watch a bunch of slack-jawed morons stumble around the woods and try (largely unsuccessfully) to avoid dying? Are you ready to guffaw in surprise when some bit of catastrophic violence happens to a human body? If you aren’t, then why are you still reading? But if you are, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Cocaine Bear’s 95 minutes.

Snout to my head, I could probably quibble about the movie’s humor relying almost entirely on characters incredulously shouting over and over again “What is wrong with this bear?” and “The bear did cocaine!” It also feels like it got to the 95-minute runtime by just excising entire subplots at random. But, you know, again: Are you here for backstory? Do you really care about Keri Russell’s relationship and why it’s annoying her daughter? Do you want to know more about the trio of ruffians who have named their gang after Marcel Duchamp? Really? Of course you don’t. No one wants backstory from Cocaine Bear.

They just want cocaine and a bear. And, I’m glad to say, Cocaine Bear delivers on this promise.

Sonny Bunch

Sonny Bunch is the Culture Editor of The Bulwark. Before serving as editor-in-chief of the film site Rebeller, he was the executive editor of and film critic for The Washington Free Beacon. He is currently a contributor to The Washington Post and his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Commentary Magazine, The Weekly Standard, and elsewhere. He is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association