Review: ‘Cocaine Bear’ is an eighth out of 10


Syd, played by Ray Liotta, and his crew sets out to find Cocaine Bear. (Universal Pictures/TNS)

By Alexa Barraza, Social Media Director

It was impossible to avoid the social media marketing for Universal Pictures’s newest killer-animal movie, “Cocaine Bear,” which was theatrically released on Feb. 24. I mean, it practically sold me when they first tweeted, “I’m the bear who ate cocaine. This is my story,” followed by a trailer. I mean, who wouldn’t be? 

The film, directed by Elizabeth Banks, is very, (very) loosely based on a true story of a drug smuggler, Andrew Thornton, who traveled by plane with 880 pounds of cocaine and decided to throw it out into the air to avoid being trailed by the authorities, according to Variety. He then attempted to parachute out with several pounds for himself; however, he wound up dead in a Knoxville, Tennessee driveway on Sept. 11, 1985. 

Several months later, a black bear was found dead due to a cocaine overdose in December 1985 in Chattahoochee National Forest. 

Banks commits to the beginning of the story similarly, with the same drug smuggler falling to his death in Knoxville after throwing out pounds of cocaine. This occurrence results in officers conducting a drug investigation; drug smugglers searching for their remaining product; a mother searching for her hooky daughter; and a bear introducing herself with pounds of cocaine, all within the same national forest. 

Just as it was initially advertised, the film was funny. I didn’t find myself laughing as hard as the rest of the audience at the theater. I also didn’t verbally poke at the movie’s plot, even though it invited viewers to, but I found myself chuckling throughout the movie. 

Kahyun Kim, social media star Scott Seiss and Margo Martindale’s characters are a highlight of the movie. When they attempt to run away from the bear, that scene shows a balance of humor and an homage to classic 1980s slasher movies, a genre that is always welcoming for me. (Although at some parts the humor felt a little too flat, it made up for it by adding more absurdity.) 

There are portions of the movie where the theme of family and friend is a bit forced. 

The subplot with Keri Russel’s character, who plays the mother out to look for her daughter, who was chased out into the woods by the bear felt as if it is simply there to increase the movie’s runtime. This is similar to the scenes with the drug smugglers Daveed, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Eddie, played by Alden Ehrenreich. It definitely forced when they recognize their close friendship by the end of the movie with a classic, “You’re more than a drug dealer. You’re my friend, my best friend.” This theme serves its purpose to add conflict but not substance. 

Syd, one of Ray Liotta’s final roles, serves as a stronger character to represent this theme. He portrays the main drug smuggler on a mission to recover all of his missing product along with his son Eddie. It was surprising to see him portray his character with so much sentiment toward his broken relationship with his son and vice versa, given that this is a movie about a bear on cocaine. If I were to see more screen time with just Liotta’s character along with the bear and slightly less time with the other filler characters, I would’ve been happier. 

All in all, if you’re just looking for a time-wasting gorefest, this is the perfect movie for you.