I know COCAINE BEAR — the “inspired by true events” film — sounds like a straight-to-SyFy production. It is exactly what the title is: it’s about a bear in the woods, jacked up on cocaine, and matters escalate.
However, director Elizabeth Banks — a relentless actor/director — goes for fucking broke with it. The script is whip-smart, it’s perfectly paced, it’s hilarious but also strangely sensitive both in tone, character approach, and its visual approach — it has gore, but it doesn’t luxuriate in it — and oddly it reminds me of both THE GOONIES and ALIEN3. To say why might spoil matters, but: it’s a brilliant combination.
Also, Banks must have called in all of her favors, because this cast — Keri Russel, Ray Liotta, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Ayoola Smart! (Also a barely present Matthew Rhys, so they got all of THE AMERICANS!) — would seem to be above what sounds like schlock. (Well, maybe not Ray Liotta [R.I.P.]) However, they all commit and give commanding performances!
This is a small note, but Banks really captures the essence of exploring a forest trail. There were a few shots where I said to myself: “Wow, this unnervingly feels like my backwoods.” (Because of course, having previously lived in Vermont, our backyard was basically one big forest, and also had guideposts and maps and signs to help navigate.)
I went into it expecting the film to be a lark, but I was shocked by how well-executed it was. This is an exceptional genre picture, and I’m slightly upset that there were only three other people in the audience with me — for a 4:20 Friday screening, nonetheless — which indicates … it’s under-appreciated. Hopefully it’ll find its audience in the future, because it deserves proper cult status.
One ding: I really wish they didn’t lean so hard into the “inspired by true events” bit. The events that happen here are outlandish enough that I don’t want to think about them happening to actual folks, and I imagine that there’s a lot of imagination and exaggeration going on. It feels completely unnecessary.
The Vic, a Chicago-based music venue, used to host film screenings whenever bands weren’t playing there, sometimes even indulging in triple-screenings that would extend well-beyond midnight. It was called ‘Brew & View’ and I still rave about what I can’t remember about the strangest triple-feature I’ve ever seen screened: THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, LORD OF THE RINGS: TWO TOWERS, and JASON X.
If I had my way, I’d totally delight in screening a triple-feature of this, ROAR, and ALIEN3. But that’s just me.