After a 500-pound black bear consumes a significant amount of cocaine and embarks on a drug-fueled rampage, an eccentric gathering of cops, criminals, tourists, and teenagers assemble in a Georgia forest.

Editing: Joel Negron
Mark Mothersbaugh

Cast: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra, Margo Martindale, Ray Liotta, Matthew Rhys

Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writers: Jimmy Warden
Cinematography: John Guleserian

Hollywood loves killer animals. From sharks, like in the first blockbuster Jaws or The Shallows, to crocodiles, like in Lake Placid and Crawl, to snakes, like in Anaconda or Snakes on a Plane, filmmakers have tackled them all. We’ve even had animal attack movies about The Birds, Black Sheep and Eight Legged Freaks. So it is surprising that only now in 2023 we are getting a film about a killer coked-up bear, but it is worth the wait.

A drug run goes awry for Andrew C. Thornton (Matthew Rhys) as he is forced to dump several millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the Georgian wilderness as his plane malfunctions. Thornton unfortunately perishes after his parachute fails to open, which leads drug smuggler Syd Dentwood (Ray Liotta) to send Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) into the forest to retrieve the lost drugs. Meanwhile, nurse Sari (Keri Russell) enters the same forest looking for her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery) who have skipped school, park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) eagerly anticipates a visit from her crush and Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) also heads for the forest suspecting the drug smugglers he’s been chasing might be heading there. All of their plans are quickly dashed by a 500lb American black bear who has gotten a taste for cocaine and will kill anyone in its way to get more.

Cocaine Bear is exactly what this movie should be, an incredibly fun time in the cinema. Director Elizabeth Banks does a stellar job balancing the tone of the film, shifting from over-the-top crazy moments to tension-filled scenes while also eliciting laughs throughout. While none of the ensemble cast are particularly memorable, they all do their part to make the film an enjoyable time from start to finish and eagerly anticipating their next encounter with the Cocaine Bear. The pairing of Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. were a lot of fun to watch while esteemed character actress Margo Martindale is absolutely delightful in each scene she’s in.

The promise of a coked-up killer bear is fulfilled with a number of great sequences, the highlight being the ambulance sequence featured in the trailers. The film does suffer from peaking a bit too early, with nothing quite living up to that sequence, but there is still plenty of great bear content with the visual effects team deserving high praise for their work with the bear more believable than some CGI beings in recent blockbuster films.

Cocaine Bear understood the assignment. A delightful time filled with jokes, grizzly deaths and over-the-top crazy sequences which doesn’t overstay its welcome, wrapping up in 95 minutes. While it isn’t going to win any awards or be a critical darling, this is the type of film people have been saying they want and I hope many people go see how much of a good time it is.

Ashley Hobley attended an advance screening of Cocaine Bear thanks to Universal Pictures Australia and Event Cinemas.