Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Elizabeth Banks.
Starring Keri Russell, Cocaine Bear, O’ Shea Jackson Jr, Alden Ehrenreich, Ray Liotta.
Comedy, US, 95 minutes, certificate 15.


Released in cinemas in the UK 24th February by Universal.


Known primarily for her acting in the comedy arena, her extravagant turn as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games franchise and directing the Charlie’s Angels remake, Elizabeth Banks may seem a surprising choice to direct the seemingly true tale of a bear discovering a taste for Bolivia’s finest and embarking on a gruesome killing spree. However, those with a taste for cult American comedies such as WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and THEY CAME TOGETHER already know of her more outrageous and outlandish comedic stylings which are ideally suited to the crazed premise on display here.


Kicking off with a soundtrack choice that direct nod to WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, Banks takes off at full speed in showing how a shipment of cocaine ends up in the vast forest of Georgia and in the nostrils of a large black bear. As the bear snorts all it can, the cast of characters, including a single mother searching for her young truant daughter, the drug dealers looking for their shipment, the detective investigating them and a gun toting park ranger, all run into the crazed animal where bloody carnage ensues. Very loosely inspired by actual events, COCAINE BEAR delights in giving the audience what it wants. Living up to its title it is surprising how far Banks goes with her premise, grafting it onto the framework of a slasher film.


The backwoods locations, 80’s setting and synth score along with the high body count will no doubt delight horror audiences and surprising those expecting no more than a high-concept studio comedy. Making the most of its 15 certificate, the film leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to its gory spectacle with limbs torn asunder and peoples insides ending up on the outside. Despite all of this there is a breezy tone underlying it all, making its harder edged and perhaps meaner spirited moments skim by without lingering, choosing instead to pull you along in its near gonzo absurdity.


As a director Banks also keeps a firm hold of her cast. Fans of classic spy series THE AMERICANS will delight at seeing Keri Russell taking centre stage here and sharing it with her co-star Margo Martindale as the trigger-happy park ranger. Despite a limited screen time Ray Liotta also manages to fit in with the gory hi-jinks that makes you miss him all the more since his untimely passing last year, although his final scenes here hardly serve as the most graceful note to go out on. The film even manages to make you care for the kids here with Christian Convery in particular as a shell-shocked witness to the carnage who also has to deal with the effects of his own inadvertent cocaine usage.


When announced COCAINE BEAR seemed to be one of those films that was designed and engineered to generate online clicks, memes and GIFS but this a far better film. Far from perfect, Banks has still managed to pull off minor miracle here, namely getting an original, non-IP driven film into multiplexes and delivering it with such bloody gusto, a feat that should always be celebrated. Hopefully she gets to show more of this gleefully and gruesomely humorous streak more and more in her directing career.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans