Elizabeth Banks dabbles into the true story genre for her third directorial effort, Cocaine Bear from Universal Pictures. Jimmy Warden pens the screenplay for the film, which is inspired by the true story of the "Cocaine Bear," an American black bear that ingested a duffel bag full of cocaine in 1985.
After ingesting a duffel bag full of cocaine, a 500 lb (230 kg) American black bear goes on a killing rampage in a small town of Georgia where a group of locals and tourists must join forces to survive the attack. Among those hoping to survive the rampage are Sari (Keri Russell), her daughter DeeDee (Brooklynn Prince) & her best friend Henry (Christian Convery)
police detective Bob ( Isaiah Whitlock), street pharmacist Daveed (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), and crime boss Syd Dentwoo (Ray Lilota). Also in the mix are park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) and Syd's son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich)
You should know exactly what to expect after seeing the film trailer. Banks and her screenwriter don't waste any time setting up the plot. We meet Andrew C. Thornton II (Matthew Rhys), a former narcotics officer and convicted drug smuggler whose actions set the film's events in motion. Thorton's plane was carrying too heavy a load, and he had the bright idea to dump the booger sugar out of the aircraft, which the bear later finds.
One thing potential viewers should know about the film is that it takes some creative liberties. In my post-research of the film, I found out the real-life Cocaine Bear is not known to have killed anyone. Additionally, the events that took place in the time leading up to its death from overdose are unknown. That said, Cocaine Bear is the most fun you may have at the movies all year. The jokes all land, and the cast is having a blast with the wild premise.
As a fan of Banks' previous two films, it was interesting to see her venture outside the box in her third film, and I enjoyed watching it. In terms of the big swing mindset of this film, she connects more than she misses. As a director, Banks can seamlessly blend the spaces of comedy and horror with a sense of confidence. Banks deserves the chance to helm a straightforward horror film at some point in the future.
Some of the ways in which Banks builds tension throughout the film are very impressive. While it is realistic and frightening, the pocket of the story in which it plays with these aspects is comfortable. All in all, Banks has crafted a film that is daring, unpredictable, and thrilling, the ideal balance between horror and comedy.
Final Grade: A-
Cocaine Bear opens In theaters today