Cocaine Bear came out last week in Irish cinemas. It’s one of those movies that I would consider entirely review/critic proof. I really think if you hear the title of the film you have a pretty good idea if it’s a movie you will enjoy or not. A bit like Snakes On A Plane in 2006. It blew up the internet a few months ago with an absolutely sensational trailer with the song White Lines by Melle Mel and I’ve been looking forward to it since then.
Incredibly, it’s based on a true story. In 1985 a man was found dead with an unopened parachute and sports bag full of cocaine attached to his body on a driveway in Kentucky. He had bailed on a small plane after a technical fault but before he jumped he also unloaded his cargo. The cargo was lots and lots of cocaine. The discarded bag was found by a black bear who consumed the entire content and died pretty quickly. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, so the legend is that the bear had a wild weekend before having a his massive heart attack. Either way he’s now stuffed and mounted in a shopping mall in Kentucky. The movie adds to the legend, what if the bear interacted with humans on his wild weekend? Several people are in the Chattahoochee park while the bear is partying. Two kids mitching school with their mother looking for them, a park ranger investigating missing hikers, drug dealers trying to track down the missing bags and a detective chasing them. They all come in contact with the bear and not all (in fact very few ) make it out of the park alive.
Kerri Russel plays the kids mom and is, as always, great. I would have liked to seen more of her and her awesome outfit. A pink 80’s jump suit. Unfortunately we spend most of the time with the drug dealers who are the least interesting of the humans. There is a cameo, and the film is dedicated to, Ray Liotta. He sadly died a few months ago so this is his final on screen performance. One interesting aspect to Irish viewers is that Cocaine Bear was almost entirely filmed in Wicklow. I did think Wicklow subs in well for Chattaoochee park. Might not be obvious to international audiences but it will be clear from some scenes we are looking at the Irish countryside. So say what you want about this film but the Irish film industry really is booming. We are however, unlikely to have a Godzilla v King Kong style An Cailin Cuin v Cocaine Bear sequel. Shame.
The film is an 18 rated movie which is rarer and rarer these days. I believe it’s due to the casual attitude to drugs rather than the violence, although there is rather some grisly attacks (excuse the pun ). It does feel a little long even at 90 minutes which makes me think they probably decided to make the film based on the name and potential memes rather than having an interesting story to tell. These types of movies are a very specific type of genre film. I do think it’s important to judge a film on the expectations it sets for itself. Considering we are in the midst of Oscar season its release probably good counter programming to heavy serious sombre awards contenders like The Whale, Tar and All Quiet On The Western Front. That said, I don't think it’s as much fun as it could have been. Which is a shame, it’s a much better film than Snakes On A Plane but I do feel like it missed a few tricks. Still, a great film to see with pals and large coke and popcorn.