With a name like Cocaine Bear, you know what's in store. A black bear will do enough cocaine to kill a man, then actually kill a man—or several. (The true events it's based on is much sadder and realistic.)
The flimsy story involves three parties headed into the Chatahoochee National Forest. Sari (Keri Russell) is searching for her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and the neighbor boy (scene stealer Christian Convery), who are lost in the woods. Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.) are on the hunt for missing cocaine for Eddie's dealer dad (Ray Liotta). Bob (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) hopes to intercept the kingpin and make a big arrest. But whatever emotional reactions Banks and writer Jimmy Warden intend with these relationships make no impact. That's because we're all here to see a bear snort some coke and tear some hikers limb from limb.
And boy is there a lot of dismemberment! Barring the new Scream entry, it's likely Cocaine Bear will be the most violent movie you'll see all year, with stabbings, shootings, and disembowelments. My screening included several walkouts, and yours might too. Despite the light tone and ridiculous nature of the story, viewers need to have a strong stomach. They'll also need to overlook some sloppy editing, questionable VFX and several superfluous characters. The latter includes a gang, whose obsession with French artist Marcel Duchamp is never explained or expanded on, let alone used as a launchpad for jokes.
But there are still plenty of good gags, including an unrequited romance between a park ranger (Margo Martindale) and a wildlife expert (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and a budding friendship between Bob and his newly adopted shih tzu. They work so well that I'll forgive its initial mistake of trying to use Jefferson Starship's "Jane" in the opening, when any comedy fan knows that absurd song belongs to another '80s-set goof (Wet Hot American Summer).
Like this year's M3GAN, Cocaine Bear knows exactly what it is without striving for more or wearing out its welcome. It's a brief high, but it's glorious.