Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 35 minutes, Director – Elizabeth Banks
Various groups find themselves trying to escape a murderous cocaine-fuelled bear after a drug drop goes wrong.
For those going into Cocaine Bear simply for a bear that takes cocaine, and perhaps goes a bit mad afterwards, it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed. Yes, it might take some time before things properly kick off, but there is certainly a fair deal of action relating to a cocaine-fuelled bear attacking various groups of people in a forest. It’s the core selling point of the film, and basis, really. It does what it says on the tin, and largely what you would expect. There is a bear on cocaine.
How is this stretched out to 95 minutes? By bringing in different groups of people all trying to escape attacks from said bear as it roams around the forest sniffing out its next brick of white powder. The reason for so much of the drug being there in the first place being a drug drop gone wrong. Thus we see drug dealing gang members Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) and ‘wishing-to-get-out’ Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) trying to find as many millions of dollars worth of the substance as possible to deliver back to their boss (Ray Liotta). Yet, despite the biggest connection to the central drugs themselves they share the run-time with various other figures from police detectives (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and a mother (Keri Russell) looking for her daughter (Broklynn Prince) and her friend (Christian Convery), amongst others figures who frequent the park.
There’s a lot of characters and for much of the first act the film jumps back and forth between them, building up to them simply getting to the park (conveniently named Blood Mountain) before things kick off. While things pass by relatively fine the film feels as if it knows that you’re waiting for the titular action to the start, however it somewhat draws itself out, not quite gaining the anticipation it may want from the audience. There are various other conflictions of tone throughout, especially when the attacks actually start. It’s uncertain as to whether the ‘horror’ elements – there’s certainly a lot of bloodshed in this film – are being played for a pastiche effect or there’s meant to be a more enjoyable-action nature to things. They may settle down eventually – particularly for the much-advertised ambulance sequence which stands out as one of the highlights of the film – but for the first few stages with the bear the tone never quite feels completely solid.
A bear which may be the central draw, and the reason for the film in the first place – the ‘based on a true story’ marker very much used to ramp up the ridiculousness – but is largely used for the commonality between the different groups we see throughout. The creature travels from location to location, stumbling upon more cocaine, and thus characters, attacking them and moving on. There’s a fair deal of enjoyment to be had with this, and again the film largely delivers on what it promises and should well work for the target audience and those who have simply been looking forward to it, however with the bear seemingly teleporting from place to place for a new sequence and incident things start to feel somewhat drawn out, even at just 95 minutes.
While not overloaded with figures, and easing itself when some come together with little force (e.g. Whitlock’s character comes across the drug gang in a rather amusing set of circumstances) there is a slightly jumpy nature to things as the film tries to live up to itself without allowing the bear to become the main character (the right thing to do with something like this). However, for the most part it works. Cocaine Bear provides enough amusement for the time that it’s on, and from the start recognises its own ridiculousness – it’s a film made because of its ridiculousness and everyone is aware of it. Not very laugh might take off, but there’s a good deal of chaos unfolding to enjoy and have a good time with, especially when things feel more gelled together. There’s a bear. It takes cocaine. It goes mad and tries to kill people. It’s what’s promised, and you can’t really fault it for that.
Cocaine Bear certainly delivers on what its title promises. While it might take a bit of time to get there, with one or two too many characters, there’s a good deal of amusement to be had within the chaos depicted.