The Thrill That Kills: “Cocaine Bear” has audiences dying of laughter and suspense


"Cocaine Bear" Creators

“Cocaine Bear” still from the movie

Madelyn Woodard, Opinion Editor

“Cocaine Bear” is Rated “R” for violence, mature language and drug use

There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Elizabeth Banks’ new masterpiece “Cocaine Bear,” but boring is not one. This movie was a rollercoaster from start to finish and throughout it I was either on the edge of my seat, eyes wide in suspense or thrown back in my chair cackling.
The basic plot is simple and summed up rather eloquently in the title of the film: “Cocaine Bear.” When a black bear in the mountains of Georgia stumbles upon a bunch of coke from a drug drop gone wrong, she proceeds to terrorize cops, children, park rangers, drug dealers and wannabe thugs on a coked-out rampage. As wild as this premise may be, it is very loosely based on a true story from 1985, when a Tennessee black bear consumed 35 pounds of cocaine and died shortly after. Banks made the movie as a way to honor the bear, which sounds odd, but by the end of the film, it makes sense.
“Cocaine Bear” had me giggling from the very start as the movie opens with a man rocking out while throwing duffle bags of coke out of the side of an airplane. What’s truly impressive, though, is that the cast was able to keep that same momentum going through the entire movie. There was not a single joke that didn’t land, and there were more than a few that I found far funnier than the writers probably intended.
Without a doubt, my favorite character in “Cocaine Bear” is Henry, played by the phenomenal Christian Convery. His character’s lines are unexpectedly mature and his delivery makes them all the better. In such a terrifying situation, what else is a child supposed to do but use it as an excuse to cuss? At only 12-years-old, Convery has already made a name for himself as the leading role in the Netflix Original “Sweet Tooth.” The late Ray Liotta, best known for his roles in “Field of Dreams” and “Goodfellas,” is also featured as the wonderfully hateable father/head drug dealer, Syd. Another exceptional addition to the cast is Margo Martindale as herself, because if anyone knows how to commit to a bit, it’s her.
As excited as I was for “Cocaine Bear,” I never really expected it to live up to the hype that its preposterous concept created. With the film receiving so much attention on social media, I was certain that we were setting the movie up for failure. Now that I’ve seen it, I can gleefully admit that I was wrong. The actors gave it their all and dove head first into the kooky plot. Aside from the comedy though, what really sells the movie is the music. I mean, come on. “I Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode playing as a bear with a coke problem chases down an ambulance? Sheer perfection.
Oddly enough, the most surprising aspect of this movie for me was not on-screen, but behind the camera: actress and director Elizabeth Banks. That’s right, the director responsible for the brilliant shots in this movie is the same woman who plays Effie in “The Hunger Games” and Gail Abernathy-McKadden in the “Pitch Perfect” series. I was beyond shocked because I hadn’t heard her name in quite some time, but after her incredible work on “Cocaine Bear,” I couldn’t be more excited for her next project, whatever it may be.
What I thought would be a one time, mediocre but silly watch turned out to be nothing short of a magnificent testimony to how intoxicating a movie can be if you just let it be fun. “Cocaine Bear” is a success story because the creators didn’t take it too seriously; they recognized that not every movie has to have a profound message. Gore doesn’t have to be dark, thrillers don’t have to make you more frightened of the world and most importantly, a bear on cocaine is cause for uproarious laughter.