‘Cocaine Bear’ brings sloppy CGI, mediocre acting

Jack Rhoden, Contributing Writer

The movie “Cocaine Bear” is based on a true story, as hard as that is to believe. In September 1985, convicted drug smuggler Andrew Thorton flew a plane with 880 pounds of cocaine. He believed he was being tracked by the government and threw out the cocaine over the Chattahoochee National Forest, before deciding to parachute out of the plane and let it crash.

Thorton was found dead in the driveway of a suburban home in Knoxville, Tennessee, with $15 million worth of cocaine strapped to his body. Not long after, a black bear was found dead in the Chattahoochee National Forest of a drug overdose from ingesting cocaine.

From that peculiar real life incident, film writer Jimmy Warden came up with the brilliant idea for a movie that details the timeline of events of a bear on cocaine.

I sat down to see a low budget B-rated movie about a bear on cocaine, but the cheesiness was gone by the first half. It is a dark comedy in tone, atmosphere, direction and writing with a bear turning people into human al pastor.

The film has a weird magical property to it. Whenever I found myself getting bored, like a hit to the head, the movie would suddenly go off on a random tirade or plot point and regain my attention.

The oddest part of the film was how character driven they wanted it to be, spending more time focusing on a group playing 20 questions than on the bear. It felt like the second half of the film had a director swap and a mad rush to get the film out. Stylistic editing choices disappeared along with the skillfully shot scenes and written characters.

There is a strong indie feel. Gore is excluded for the most part. They clearly had talented special effects artists, but kept leaning too hard on the “practical is better” ideology. This resulted in shots of poor quality limbs that seemed to be made of foam and dollar store paints.

The set design was economical, yet effective. The movie, for the sake of budget, used public places including parks and forests, with the areas being modified to suit the plot of the film. The trees in particular were made to look dying and sick, as the movie’s plot revolves heavily around trees.

The casting choices were solid, although a few performances left something to be desired. The only two who gave a decent performance were the two main male characters, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).

All scenes where direction, writing and set design were emphasized shined. Unfortunately, the actual bear in the movie titled “Cocaine Bear” suffered from poor CGI effects.

Nevertheless, I would recommend watching “Cocaine Bear.” I am happy lower budget films are making their way to theaters more consistently.