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Cocaine Bear (2023)

When 'Cocaine Bear' was first announced I was in genuine shock that something like this would be presented in such a mainstream way. Films like this belong on the 'Syfy' channel with the likes of 'Sharknado' and 'Mega Snake', or at the very least straight to the DVD bargain bin. So how a film with such a ridiculous premise got legs like this is beyond me. That was, until the trailer was released. And I have to say my expectations grew higher than this film had any right for them to be. The question is, does it live up to what the trailer promised?

Given the title of this film, I think the best place to start is by discussing the plot. Whilst providing a somewhat logical explanation to such an absurd premise, 'Cocaine Bear' is an unfocused mess. Constantly bouncing back and forth between the many unnecessary subplots that this film has, it's hard to establish any particular story that would be considered as the central narrative - with multiple characters gaining more screen time than necessary, and certainly more than their acting capabilities should allow them to have.

Considering the list of acting talent featured in this production, I was flabbergasted to see such lazy and unengaging performances from everyone involved, with O'Shea Jackson Jr. providing a poor imitation of his father's role of Craig from the 'Friday' movies. Jackson Jr. was especially disappointing. Considering he has such wide range, being able to showcase incredible dramatic performances as well as his ability to perfectly handle comedic moments flawlessly, this just wasn't one of those performances. Sadly, for someone who had such a glowing career as an actor in Hollywood, it's a shame this is how Ray Liota will be remembered for his last on screen role.

As for Elizabeth Banks' directorial abilities, it's fair to say she is better suited infront of the camera than behind it. Banks makes some amateur choices when it comes to the way she chose to film and frame shots on this film, these issues were so amplified to me as a viewer due to the professional scale and budget of the production along with the recognisable cast involved. Another thing that became increasingly frustrating was the 'Scrubs' style cut, another example of her amateur and a very dated use of audience exposition. This is a technique that is used so often that it almost becomes a subplot within itself.

In terms of the effects, 'Cocaine Bear' is a mixed bag. As to be expected this featured some glaringly poor CGI effects, especially in moments that feature the bear. Particularly when moving, the motion blur from the effects causes the bear to look as though it is moving unnatually. This is however somewhat slightly redeemed with the occasional moment of rather impressive practical gore effects. These moments are unfortunately too few and far between and do get lost in the plethora of overused CGI. I personally think that an over the top practical gore fest using a puppet and animatronic bear combination would have been much more suitable to the tone of this film, and certainly more forgiving.

I always knew 'Cocaine Bear' was going to go one of two ways, so to sit here and judge it through a critical eye feels almost unfair, as I am no longer the target audience for a film as satirical as this. I would say this film has come about 20 years too late for me to gain any level of enjoyment from the bland, juvenile and humorless way that this film presents itself. And whilst featuring a very few scenes of momentary hope, the overall messy execution is unforgivable.



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