So, there’s a wild bear… that discovers some cocaine. I mean, a whole lot of cocaine. That singular premise intrigued me enough to watch Universal’s latest release, Cocaine Bear. It’s a simple concept that’s comparable to Snakes on a Plane. Both titles succinctly depict their storylines in as few words as possible. And both movies are about as cheesy and gory as you’d expect. Those are also the exact reasons why I enjoyed both films.
Much like Snakes on a Plane, Cocaine Bear was trending everywhere — online and off — with the release of its teaser trailer and subsequent updates. But unlike Snakes, Bear is based on a true story. Well, inspired by true events is more like it.
Early morning on Sept. 11, 1985, Andrew Carter Thornton II (aka “The Cocaine Cowboy”) dropped 880 pounds of Colombian flake out of a Cessna airplane into wilderness areas for later retrieval by his cohorts. Multiple times the Army paratrooper-turned-racehorse trainer-turned-narcotics cop-turned-DEA agent-turned-lawyer-turned-cocaine smuggler would skydive out of his plane, intentionally crashing it, while hunting for his illicit drops. That, in itself, also intrigued me, as the truth is often stranger than fiction.
On this ill-fated flight, the parachute of our “Cocaine Cowboy” failed to open. It’s totally possible he was high as a kite and might have been injured while exiting the vehicle. His body was later found in Knoxville, TN. Two months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reported a black bear had eaten 75 lbs. of cocaine and its stomach was completely full of the drugs. It was later stuffed and somehow made its way to a Lexington, KY shopping mall. Today, you can visit Pablo Escobear, but we can only wonder about that critter’s last few days…
This film is a dark comedy that involves an oddball group of tourists, teens, cops and criminals converging in a Georgia forest for a What If scenario starring Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Ray Liotta(!!!!).
While the real-life story of the furry four-legged killer interested me more than this big-screen adaptation, I’d love to hear a podcast breaking down how Oscar-winning producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller talked Elizabeth Banks into directing this gory story. I’m all ears!!!
Also incredibly noteworthy: This could be Ray Liotta’s final appearance of his professional career. While Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in what feels like hundreds of feature films throughout his career, he will be forever linked to Snakes on a Plane, among others. The same will be said of Liotta.
While he should be remembered for his tough-guy roles involved in organized crime, as well as his many award-nominations, he will forever be linked to Cocaine Bear. The actor does a great job as the Big Bad here, but he doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime and that is unfortunate. While appearing somewhat sympathetic, the motivations of the cold-blooded antagonist are absolutely straightforward. Sadly, there’s not much of a character arc.
The concept for this film is pretty wild. Paired with the gory special effects and its dark humor, I enjoyed it and hope its box-office returns will prove profitable. Oscar contender, it is not, but that shouldn’t sway you from watching it in any possible way.
I thoroughly enjoyed Cocaine Bear because I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. And if you go into the theater with the right mindset, you too will have a blast with this movie!