By Chris Dos Santos
22nd February 2023

The 'based on a true story" film is a vast genre. Musicians, disasters, crimes, news stories - the list could go on and on forever. There is no topic that Hollywood won't jump at to adapt into a movie, but today's candidate is an absolutely wild story, and more than other films based on actual events this takes some serious liberties with its real-life counterparts. Cocaine Bear was an American black bear found dead in 1985 after overdosing on about 34 kilos of cocaine. The drugs came from an aircraft smuggling them into America and when the plane was going down the drug smuggler on board threw bags of cocaine off the plane, where they landed in the wildness in Tennessee.

In the 2023 film 'Cocaine Bear', those same events do happen, but instead of the bear dying from an overdose it goes on a killing rampage. In the bear's path are park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale, 'Hannah Montana: The Movie', 'The Kitchen') and her wannabe lover and park inspector (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, TV's 'Modren Family', 'Ice Age: Collision Course'), Sari (Keri Russell, 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker', 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'), her daughter (Brooklynn Prince, 'The Florida Project', 'The One and Only Ivan') and her daughter's best friend Henry (Christian Convery, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' (2021), 'Descendants 3'), who have skipped school to go a waterfall, and Cop Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr, 'Lightyear', 'I Care A Lot') who's trying to find the missing drugs. At the same time, Daveed (O'Shea Jackson Jr, 'Straight Outta Compton', 'Long Shot') and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich, 'Solo: A Star Wars Story', 'Hail, Caesar!') are tasked with also finding the cocaine by their drug boss Syd Dentwood (Ray Liotta in the first role since his death, 'The Many Saints of Newark', 'Marriage Story'), who also happens to be Eddie's father.


'Cocaine Bear' has the makings of a cult classic; it's a laugh-out-loud gore beauty. In previous directing efforts, Elizabeth Banks has felt incredibly safe but goes all out here, and is having a blast behind the camera. The film does have some understandable lulls, but when the bear is on its killing spree it's everything you could want from a killer bear dark comedy. It has the makings of something like 'Wet Hot American Summer' (which Banks starred in) - this is going to be a movie night staple with friends, drinking (or maybe something more fitting) while quoting along and having fun - it has all the right components.

This is going to be a movie night staple with friends, drinking while quoting along and having fun - it has all the right components.

If you're sold on the premise, 'Cocaine Bear' is a fun high. It's a tight 95 minutes and each kill is a delight to watch (the ambulance sequence will go down as one of the funniest and wildest scenes of the year). Add in the witty one-liners, and this is one bear you'll want to poke.

Please Hollywood: more 90-minute films. They are a blessing.

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