If a sequel called Cocaine Shark doesn’t get the green light immediately after this movie leaves theaters, then clearly someone hasn’t snorted enough white stuff to make it happen yet.
Loosely — and I mean loosely — based on a true event from 1985 when a black bear fatally overdosed on a brick of cocaine after it was dropped by drug smugglers high above the Tennessee wilderness, Cocaine Bear takes that idea and cranks it up to eleven by pitting a coked up apex predator against a handful of hapless humans, all in the name of giving audiences some good old fashioned murder and mayhem. Following a handful of characters — like Keri Russell’s mother-on-a-mission and Alden Ehrenreich’s distraught son of a drug smuggler — as they get wrapped up in various cocaine and bear-related shenanigans, this movie’s plot is about as basic as you can get, yet never fails to deliver on the one thing we all came to the theater to see: a cocaine-addicted animal ripping people to bloody pieces.
Essentially a schlocky B-movie only with a bigger budget and better stars to sell its batshit premise, Cocaine Bear excels when its titular bear is onscreen doing what she does best. With a more comedic tone and a healthy balance of blood and chaos keeping things interesting throughout (the ambulance/bear chase sequence being a stand-out), it’s the stellar performances from a bunch of well-known actors who simply get what kind of movie they’re in, ensuring that this one not only does right by its audiences and zany hook but has just enough going on otherwise to make it worth watching.
But for as fun as the movie admittedly is, some of the thin scripting, uneven pacing, and what basically amounts to the entire third act end up lessening an otherwise highly entertaining film, an issue that ended up being a bit of a bummer for me. Not only is the finale relatively anticlimactic compared to the rest of the movie, but the contrived nature of some of the storytelling threads felt a bit forced too. And while I obviously didn’t go to the theater for the writing or even the characters being torn to shreds every few scenes, it was disappointing to see how the filmmakers decided to wrap everything up, especially considering the rest of the film was so consistently getting things done.
So for as much as I enjoyed this movie, there were more than a few things wrong with it that kept it from being even better, with its over-the-top action and quirky characters going a long way to help this one capitalize on a wacky premise that’s hard not to enjoy once the cocaine starts blowin’ and the blood starts flowin’. I’m sure with its stronger-than-expected bow at the box office, Cocaine Bear can easily become the gateway drug to a cocaine-fueled franchise of glorious B-movie laughs and thrills, so as long as the quality holds steady should we get another entry, I’m in it for the long haul.