Movie Review: Cocaine Bear

A heartwarming coming of age tale...JK, it's about a bear that does cocaine.

Cocaine Bear—or, as I prefer to call it, The Revenant II: This Time He’s High as Hell—delivers on its promise. That is, if you ever wanted to see a film about a bear who is high on cocaine and kills and dismembers a whole lot of people, this is the film for you. Indeed, this is the only film for you. But if you’ve never found yourself gleefully shouting “gnarly!” or “oh, he is so [bleeping] dead!” in a theater, you should probably steer clear. The film is well made, efficient, clever, and some of its funny lines will have you, um, snorting. But in the end, it’s still about a bear on a coke binge.

The craziest thing? It’s loosely—very loosely—based on a true story. There really was a bear who ingested 34 kilos of cocaine (valued at $2 million) in the woods, after the bags had been dropped out of a plane by a drug dealer whose parachute never opened. In the film that hapless drug dealer is played by Matthew Rhys, in a funny cameo. Alas, the real bear—nicknamed Pablo Eskobear (heh)—overdosed and died. Movie bear goes full Scarface. Say hello to my giant claws.

The film, directed with gusto by the actress/director Elizabeth Banks, introduces us to a ragtag group of characters, most of whom I don’t recommend getting too attached to, if you catch my drift. Notably, there’s Liz the forest ranger, played by Margo Martindale. She’s bitter that she’s stuck on the middling Blood Mountain, not Yellowstone, and has an ill-advised crush on an eccentric forest inspector named Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). There’s also the MacGyver-coiffed drug dealer Syd (Ray Liotta in his last role—the film is dedicated to him), who sends one of his henchmen, Daveed (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), along with his own son, Eddie (Alden Erenreich), into the woods to recover the bags. They will be joined by a cop (Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.), who is still grousing about the fact that the pet store sent him the wrong dog—he ordered a Golden Retriever and got a Maltese. (He wanted a dog that played fetch, not one that looks fetching.) There are also a pair of medics, one played by Scott Seiss, rubber-faced IKEA guy himself, who proves to be as funny in the film as he is in his famous memes.

Along with the buddy film vibes between Daveed and Eddie, the heart and soul of the film is Keri Russell as a nurse who’s gone into the woods searching for her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and her little buddy, Henry (Christian Convery), who have played hooky. At one point, Inspector Peter and Henry climb trees to escape the rampaging bear.

“We’re safe,” Henry says. “Bears can’t climb trees.”

“Of course they can!” sputters Peter.


There are lots of jump scares, moments of people landing face-first in a pile of cocaine, limbs falling from the sky, errant bullets, clawed buttocks, and so on. The film’s CGI is spot-on. That berserk bear looks real. There are also plenty of “Just Say No To Drugs” jokes (the film takes place in the 80s, after all). And if you think the Melle Mel song “White Lines” isn’t needle dropped, you haven’t been paying attention.

Cocaine Bear is hardly a masterpiece but it has cult film potential. My verdict: It doesn’t blow.