‘Cocaine Bear’ offers gore, lacks message


In 1985, a bear did cocaine. That’s all that really matters. It does not matter that the bear overdosed and was found dead months later. It does not matter that this event came at the height of Ronald Reagan’s war against drugs, nor does it matter that the taxidermy of the bear, which still exists, can legally officiate weddings in the state of Georgia. Of course none of that matters, the movie “Cocaine Bear” isn’t interested in the historical happenings of the bear who did cocaine. It is interested in the concept of a cocaine bear. What a question to ask. What if a bear did cocaine?

The answer to that purely hypothetical question is a 90 minute horror-comedy that follows a bear on a cocaine-fuelled killing spree. Its fairly bare bones plot draws in anyone that might happen to be in the forest on a weekday; from teenage delinquents to park rangers to the associates of the man who lost the cocaine in the first place. There’s not much connection between plot points, which is okay for a film called “Cocaine Bear” as it doesn’t need to be “Citizen Kane.” While much of the movie is indiscriminate gory deaths of side characters, it also features two children (who obviously can’t be violently mauled to death by a bear), with their mother (Keri Russel) playing the heroic protagonist and the drug dealer (Ray Liotta) as the villain. This conflict, though, is largely sidelined until the climax in favor of directionless violence and banter.

Said violence and banter are good enough. The film shows a bear attack in practically every way one could be visually interesting. There’s no hesitation to show gore, with arms, legs, and even intestines at one point all being ripped apart by the bear. 

And of course, the characters of the movie are more than ready to make fun of its absurd premise. Most of them manage to make a good impression, and those who survive until the final act are sufficiently endearing. Alden Ehrenreich’s character Eddie, a former drug dealer who becomes entangled in the whole ordeal, is a highlight. None of them, though, are hilarious.

Beyond that, there isn’t much to “Cocaine Bear.” Though it does dip its toes into the ‘80s anti-drug rhetoric, it does not have any central message. The main strength of the film is the simply wild premise, but the main drawback is that even though it is an hour-and-a-half-long experience, you can easily get the point at only 30 minutes in.

“You’re not gonna see any articles after, like, ‘Cocaine Bear Ending Explained,’” said Scott Seiss, a TikTok star with a small role in the film. Nonetheless, articles with this exact title do exist. By having a plot and by trying to justify its existence as a movie that the audience has paid money to see, “Cocaine Bear” must overcomplicate itself. The concept of a Cocaine Bear could be great, but sadly, “Cocaine Bear” isn’t a great movie.