by Charles Kirkland Jr.
What happens when a black bear in Georgia sniffs out an aborted shipment of millions of dollars in illegal drugs? Only the craziest horror action comedy called Cocaine Bear.
After some plane problems force the pilot to dump his multi-million dollars shipment of cocaine, drug kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta) sends his right-hand man Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and grief-stricken son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) to recover his property. Unfortunately, when they arrive in the Georgian state park where the drugs were dumped, Eddie and Daveed find out that a dedicated yet out-of-jurisdiction detective, a hilariously stupid gang, a couple of school-skipping kids, an enraged mother, and one extra large black bear have all beaten them to the cocaine. Even more unfortunate, the bear had developed an addiction to the drugs and will stop anyone and anything that will come between more drugs and her.
Based upon a true story, Jimmie Warden writes the screenplay for Cocaine Bear which stars Liotta, Jackson, and Ehrenreich along with Keri Russell, Isaiah Wihtilock Jr., Brooklynn Prince, Christian Convery Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ayoola Smart. The film is directed by Elizabeth Banks. Yes, that Elizabeth Banks. Additionally, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the big brains behind The Lego Movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Mitchells vs. the Machines serve as executive producers.
With a pedigree of this nature, it is almost assured that the comedy level of Cocaine Bear should be off the charts. And it is! This is not her first time directing an action comedy (Charlie’s Angels 2) but Banks also shows an incredibly deft hand at directing this intensely dark action-comedy that also passes muster as a credible horror film. Complete with grotesque humor, excessive gore, and a couple of really good jump scares, this film blends the three genres in a way that has been very rare, and properly executed. Mark Mothersbaugh’s soundtrack also gives the film great drive.
The casting for the film is ingenious. Jackson’s dedicated and serious Daveed combined with the weepiness of Ehrenreich’s Eddie make a perfectly hilarious odd couple. Keri Russell is a great worried and angry mother on the rebound. Isiaiah Whitlock Jr. is a seriously devoted police detective with a sensitive side. Margo Martindale is an incredibly thirsty park ranger trying to catch her man, a park inspector played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson. On their own, each story is comedy gold but together, this is one of the best ensembles of the year.
All that being said, the death of Ray Liotta last year was tragic and sudden. Sadly, this is his last performance. Historically, Liotta has made a living playing some pretty complicated bad guys well and Syd is a really bad guy, not complicated but bad nonetheless. However, if it was known that this was going to be his last role, they probably would have beefed it up more. His screen time is minimal but yet he is essential to the story.
The most excellent part of the film is the way Jimmie Warden’s screenplay and Banks’ direction weave four completely different storylines into one delirious and demented story centered around a true story of a black bear and its search for cocaine. Rated R for bloody gore, violence, drug usage, and language throughout, Cocaine Bear is much more than expected in a really great way. It is simply bloody fun. Emphasis on both the blood and the fun.