Producer and professional actress Elizabeth Banks had the inspiration to tell the story of how a 500-pound black bear went on a drug-fueled rampage. This inspiration soon became a motion picture that had fans and critics taken aback when in March of 2021, Universal Studios announced that the movie “Cocaine Bear” was under development.
This movie is based on true events, and it takes place in Newnan, Georgia, at Chattahoochee Bend State Park. One of the lead female roles, Park Ranger Liz, played by Margo Martindale, is managing the ranger’s station when the action starts to unfold. This dense forested area in Northern Georgia happened to be the location where an entire shipment of cocaine, contained inside duffel bags, was dropped. This was done by drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton, who was an active drug smuggler all his life until his death of narcotic-overdosage in September of 1985. A female black bear, who soon became known as the “Cocaine Bear”, found the cocaine and accidentally inhaled it. After her first time inhaling this deadly white powder, the bear kept coming back to the substance, therefore becoming more aggressive in her actions as the movie progressed.
The first victims of the Cocaine Bear were two hikers, Elsa and Olaf. While Olaf was able to escape, he was unable to rescue his girlfriend, Elsa, who was being mauled into pieces by the intoxicated beast right in front of him. This is the first time in the movie where there was a lot of blood and gore depicted. In this instance, along with many others throughout the movie, the directors and producers made the decision to show the limbs of the characters being ripped off. This is something for potential viewers to keep in mind before watching this movie, especially for younger viewers as it is rated R for its violence and mature language.
As previously mentioned, this movie takes place in a state park in Georgia. Although it was entirely filmed in Dublin, Ireland, the scenic pictures still represent that of a state park. Along with the visuals that come with the scene is the costuming. Because “Cocaine Bear” is based on true events, the hair, makeup and costume designers thought it to be essential to accurately portray the characters according to the time period in which it was set. When I saw this movie, it was easy for me to tell, based off these three things, that it took place in the mid- 1980s.
There were a couple of people who stood out to me with their hair and costumes. The first is Sari, a distressed mom who is looking for her daughter in the woods, played by Kari Russell. Russell wore a pink jumpsuit and had her hair teased. The second character is drug smuggler Dentwood, played by the late Ray Liotta, whom the film was soon later dedicated to. Liotta, playing the protagonist, was wearing a brown leather jacket, a chain around his neck and his hair was slicked back into a mullet. These were all good choices to make in order to accurately portray the ‘80s.
Although there were many good decisions made by those in charge of this production, the plot itself seemed to be a little boring. Many of the scenes were essentially the same thing. Someone would either die or get seriously injured when they accidentally encountered the bear while at the state park. Then someone would try to come find them and would fall into the same trap. The thrilling aspect of watching the bear go crazy and chase people became all too repetitive after a while. For viewers who are not disturbed by lots of blood, mature language and the usage of narcotics, this might just be the movie for you. For those more weary of heart, perhaps it’s better to stick to the Disney movies.