How does one begin to describe “Cocaine Bear”? I mean, the title tells you what to expect: Apex predator does illegal stimulant, mayhem ensues. No convoluted plot or social commentary; the film’s only mystery is how absurd it will get. The answer: very absurd. “Cocaine Bear” is fully aware of its ridiculous premise, and, as such, it doesn’t try to be anything more. It knows its audience came to see a gratuitous bloodbath, so that’s exactly what it gives them. And, boy, is it a wild ride.
“Cocaine Bear” is easily one of the most fun viewing experiences I’ve ever had, and that is its greatest strength. This is a film that demands to be seen in theaters. The over-the-top violence and the well-executed CGI are two of its biggest selling points, and they can’t be fully appreciated anywhere but on the big screen. But more than that, you should see “Cocaine Bear” in theaters for the experience of being part of the film’s audience.
Sitting in the darkness in Mount Vernon’s Premiere Theater 7, I felt a connection that was like nothing I’ve experienced before. The other viewers and I were united in an unparalleled sense of community. Together, we gasped in horror and delight as the bear disemboweled the latest in a never-ending series of victims. When I say that we watched “Cocaine Bear” with rapt attention, I mean it; we spent the entire hour-and-a-half runtime sitting in spellbound silence. We were a room full of rats, and that drugged-out bear was the Pied Piper.
That said, being entertaining and self aware aren’t qualities that inherently make a good film. Production value matters too. Factors like cinematography, pacing and actors’ performances all merit consideration. And while “Cocaine Bear” is no technical masterpiece (a statement I’m sure the filmmakers themselves will agree with), I’m pleased to say that it was more than good enough.
At first, the acting was pretty bad. The dialogue felt stilted and unnatural, and this was especially true of the lines given to the child actors. However, the cast’s overall performance got better as the film progressed. Once they were given interesting material to work with, all of the actors proved competent. The child character of Henry (Christian Convery) was an adorable source of comedic relief, and desperate mother Sari (Keri Russell) brought raw emotion to every scene she was in. And of course I would be remiss not to mention Ray Liotta. His energetic portrayal of cocaine kingpin Syd was incredible to watch, and it’s evident how much fun he had in the role. It’s the perfect swan song for one of modern Hollywood’s greatest careers.
Additionally, “Cocaine Bear” implemented gore extremely well. I know that might sound strange, considering all I just said about its excess and indulgence, but hear me out. As the film progressed, the violence intensified. That’s not to say it was ever tame, but the end was noticeably more explicit than the beginning. This is a brilliant strategy for keeping the audience engaged: Every time I thought I knew what to expect, “Cocaine Bear” one-upped itself. Each instance of gore was simultaneously purposeful and entertaining. You really, really need to go see this film in theaters yourself, so I’m not going to give any spoilers, but let me just say this: The final kill will go down in cinematic history.
It’s only been in theaters for a week, but “Cocaine Bear” already feels destined to join “Sharknado” and “Snakes on a Plane” as a cult classic. I can’t recommend it enough. Please go see it; the more money this movie makes, the more likely we are to get a bajillion terrible sequels.
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