“Cocaine Bear:” Absurdity and Emotion at full strength

Nic Peter Chavaria, Reporter

As absurd as the title would lead you to think, 2023’s “Cocaine Bear” is an unexpectedly heartfelt and character-driven film, that utilizes comedy and horror in a way I don’t think many expected.

The movie is roughly based on the real-life events in 1985, of an American black bear overdosing on cocaine. The wording of “roughly” is essential here, as almost the entire film outside of the first 15 minutes or so is entirely fiction. While as far we know, no one was seriously injured in real life, the film has a body count that easily enters the double digits.

Following a botched drug-smuggling operation of cocaine, we follow a diverse ensemble of characters as they each encounter the aptly named “Cocaine Bear,” and slowly come together in ensuring each other’s survival.


Speaking of the group of characters, the cast of the movie gives it their absolute best regardless of how experienced they are or not. Ray Liotta’s final role as antagonist Syd, Alden Ehrenreich (playing Syd’s son Eddie), and Keri Russel (the strong and loving mother Sari) easily give in solid performances and fully inhabit their roles. Brooklyn Prince (Dee Dee) and Christian Convery (Henry) are also a highlight of the film bringing in really good and convincing performances at only 13 and 14 years old respectively.

As previously mentioned, this film’s major strong suit is the characters within, and the relationships and conflicts they each have as the film plays out. This is especially heightened as half of our cast are decent, innocent citizens or law enforcement, and the other half are members of the failed drug operation. Alden’s character especially has a strong arc as his father leads the drug operation, yet wants to have a fresh start with his son Gabe.

Another major highlight of the film is how dedicated the film is to the 1980s aesthetic. Everyone is either wearing outfits and hairstyles or driving cars as accurately as possible. The set dressing as well looks straight out of movies like Breakfast Club, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While not the most unique or innovative, the film has a solid soundtrack of an original score and era-appropriate 1980s music on top.

All in all, while not the most compelling film of the year, that’s not the reason why you’re watching. If you’re only looking for a fun comedy-horror movie you’ll love it, but the characters elevate it to a solid movie of its own.