Cocaine Bear Gonna Cocaine Bear (CREDIT: Universal Studios)

Starring: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Ray Liotta, Christian Convery, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Aaron Holliday, Kristofer Hivju

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for A Trail of Terrifyingly Bloody Drug-Fueled Destruction

Release Date: February 24, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: A bear did cocaine. A BEAR did cocaine! A bear did COCAINE! A bear DID cocaine!


This is a movie that certainly delivers on the premise of its title. After a botched bit of drug trafficking leaves a duffel bag full of cocaine unsupervised in a Georgia park, a black bear ingests mass quantities of the powder and proceeds to become supernaturally aggressive. A park ranger, some teenage miscreants, a single mom and her young daughter and her daughter’s friend, and a couple of hikers all get caught in the path of the rampage, while the guys who are on the hook for the stash go to extreme lengths to retrieve it. What could possibly go right?!

What Made an Impression?: After watching a film like Cocaine Bear, I find it helpful to paraphrase the classic movie-mocking show Mystery Science Theater 3000 by utilizing the mantra “Just repeat to myself: It’s just a movie, I should really just relax.” Except, in this case, this nightmare is actually based on a true story. Very loosely based on a true story, though, so we can still remain at ease. In the real version, the bear died before it had the chance to do any sort of damage. Still, despite the fantastical exaggeration, the movie has a rather grounded feel to it that serves as a reminder about how we’re all living – for now – at the mercy of nature.

Let me be absolutely clear (if I haven’t been already): this is one of the most graphically violent mainstream American movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Body parts are torn off and tossed aside with ease, while guts are exposed as a feast for cubs. And it’s made all the more distressing by the fact that we get to know pretty much all of the victims before they meet their demises. Sometimes extreme cinema is positively invigorating; other times, it makes me ask: should I be watching this?

While Cocaine Bear made me reckon with mortality more than I was expecting it to, I could at least appreciate the craft and the commitment. The use of CGI in the bear is obvious and occasionally dodgy in close-ups, but in a way that counterintuitively works. It feels like a cartoon has invaded the physical realm in the worst way possible. And then there are the performances, which dial up the Southern-fried quirks in about half the cast, and then you have the more grounded work, particularly by Ray Liotta in one of his final on-screen appearances. Even in a film as outlandish as this one, in which he’s playing a drug trafficker sporting a gloriously coiffed mane that’s wilder than any woodland creature’s, he finds the genuine motivating oomph. Simply put, we’re in good hands with him, as he forges a true connection in a situation where everything could easily go off the rails in every direction. So come for the brute-force premise, and stay for the subtle surprises.

Cocaine Bear is Recommended If You Like: Piranha, Anaconda, Lake Placid, 80s Rock ‘n’ Roll

Grade: 3 out of 5 Duffel Bags