Street Date 4/18/23;
Box Office $64.38 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence and gore, drug content and language throughout.
Stars Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys, Ray Liotta.
Whatever expectations a title like Cocaine Bear might conjure in the mind’s eye, the resulting film more or less delivers. As director Elizabeth Banks describes the film in the bonus materials, Cocaine Bear is a comedy wrapped up in a horror film, the title taken as literally as possible to gift the audience with some dumb, goofy fun that pokes at what otherwise might be considered sensitive subjects.
The film is based on a true incident from 1985 in which a dead black bear was found to have ingested a duffel bag of cocaine that had been thrown out of a plane that crashed and whose pilot died after bailing out. That bear was later stuffed and put on display in a Kentucky mall.
The movie takes the premise and runs with it, reimagining the scenario as the bear becoming addicted to the white powder and then going on a rampage to find more.
The concept of characters on the hunt for cocaine already suggests a 1980s vibe, which the film further enhances with its music and wardrobe choices.
The tone is set from the outset, with Matthew Rhys as Thornton, seemingly having a party as he blissfully tosses duffel bags of cocaine out of his plane, then manages to knock himself out as he jumps.
The drug-filled bags land throughout the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest for an assortment of characters to find. Eventually, they all encounter the bear who will do anything to maintain its high.
As the bear cuts through the cast through an increasingly violent and cartoonish level of gory death scenes, the film is basically left with two groups trying to escape the woods. One is a mother (Keri Russell) searching for a couple of kids who got lost in the woods trying to escape from the bear. The other is a drug gang led by Syd (Ray Liotta in one of his final roles) trying to recover the cocaine.
According to Banks in the bonus materials, from her perspective the bear is the hero of the film, as the human characters are responsible for whatever mayhem is unleashed upon the forest.
Most of Banks’ insights into the film are delivered in a commentary track shared with her husband Max Handelman, who also serves as one of the film’s producers alongside Banks.
Other behind-the-scenes materials on the Blu-ray include the nine-minute featurette “All Roads Lead to Cokey: The Making of Cocaine Bear” and the eight-minute “UnBEARable Bloodbath: Dissecting the Kills.”
A four-minute “Doing Lines” featurette is an amusing piece in which the cast and filmmakers read lines from the Cocaine Bear script, which is infused with an irreverence for the material befitting the subject matter.
There’s also an alternate ending, which wouldn’t have worked very well, and three deleted scenes that run four-and-a-half minutes. One is an extended clip of Russell and one of the kids trying to cross a river, in which the kid discusses his love of the “Rocky” movies, which expands on why he’s wearing a championship belt throughout the film.
Rounding out the extras is a two-minute gag reel.