REVIEW: ‘Cocaine Bear’ brings fresh snow to Hollywood

“What’s the worst that could happen in a forest?”

The 2023 film “Cocaine Bear” finally answered that frequently asked question. 

“Cocaine Bear” tells the story of a cast of oddballs. Each is on a unique quest, but share the goal of not being slain by the high-on-cocaine black bear roaming a Georgia national park. 

The premise of a monstrous bear going on a cocaine-fueled rampage is fictitious, but true events inspired the film.

Brett Abrams | Graphic Artist

In 1985, an ex-police officer turned drug smuggler, Andrew Thornton, smuggled over 800 pounds of cocaine into the United States from Columbia via plane. While in the air, Thornton discovered federal agents were in pursuit. 

Thornton chucked the bags of cocaine off the plane and jumped, strapped with millions of dollars worth of cocaine and an out-of-service parachute.

Thornton, and the drugs strapped to his body, landed in a driveway in Tennessee. The bags of cocaine Thornton threw off the plane landed safely in a national park in Georgia. 

Thornton’s failed skydive can be chalked up to a simple, yet lethal parachute failure, but there was no definitive evidence as to what caused the malfunction. However, the masterminds behind “Cocaine Bear” opted to show a creative reenactment of how they believe Thornton spent his last minutes. 

In the film, Thornton, a former Reserve Officers’ Training Camp kid in real life, went out in classic military style: hitting his head on the plane, knocking him unconscious for his journey to the surface of the Earth. Much like Thornton, the audience didn’t see it coming.

In real life and in the movie, a bear did indeed discover the bags of cocaine. The real bear, nicknamed “Pablo Escobear,” was found dead of an overdose.  

Escobear was taxidermied and now resides at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in, you guessed it — Kentucky.

In the film, the bear did not die of a cocaine overdose. Instead, it developed an affinity for the drug and the performance-enhancing effect it inspired. Cocaine Bear was born. 

As the movie progressed, the audience was introduced to the oddball cast of characters.

One storyline follows a single mother (Keri Russell) as she searches for her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and her pal Henry (Christian Convery) — who cut school to paint a waterfall located deep in the forest.

At the same time, a drug kingpin (Ray Liotta) sends his son (Alden Ehrenreich) and a trusted member of his criminal enterprise (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to retrieve the lost cocaine. 

A local detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) joins the hunt for the drugs and those responsible for smuggling them into the country. 

The characters embark on a journey into the forest, where they encounter several characters — featuring an overzealous park ranger, a pair of unsuspecting first responders and a band of local teenage hooligans. 

Not every character makes it out alive when the curtains close, but the intrigue and excitement of the film never dies. 

Director Elizabeth Banks created something special in “Cocaine Bear.” It’s an action-packed comedy executed to perfection — absurdist fiction at its best. 

While big-name actors like Russell and Liotta headlined the cast, Convery stole the show with his performance as Henry. The wise-beyond-his-years 13-year-old never failed to make the audience laugh with his witty one-liners and charismatic personality. 

After witnessing a gruesome death, Henry wishes to forget he saw such a heinous act. He quickly realizes, “it’s the kinda thing that seems to stay with a man forever.” 

Henry wasn’t wrong. “Cocaine Bear” is the type of movie you won’t forget. Whether you want to forget or not, the blood-soaked claws and sharp yellow teeth of the drugged-up beast are unforgettable. 

This film doesn’t have stunning cinematography or an intricate plot, but it’s a fun watch. 

“Cocaine Bear” is a film of mindless wonder — you don’t need to think to enjoy it.

The film’s gory action and quick pace distract viewers from the half-baked plot and lazy writing. It sacrifices logical reasoning and detailed storylines for fast action — and it works perfectly

Humor is a necessary element of the film’s enjoyability. The absurdity of the story makes the corny jokes land. It’s the type of film that invites the audience to laugh with it rather than at it. 

If “Cocaine Bear” accomplished nothing else, it teaches kids an important lesson: drugs change you. 


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  1. This review is the best I’ve seen on this website. Much better than that “Puss in Boots” review a couple weeks ago.

  2. This is such a good review. Glad to see this publication’s movie reviews bounce back after that “Puss in Boots” review.