Sam Burnham, Curator
I’ve heard a lot of buzz over the last few months about the new movie Cocaine Bear.
The true events that inspired the film are a bit of a curiosity. The story takes place almost entirely in Georgia, in the film, specifically Blood Mountain. I had to know.
The opening sequence sets a fantastic mood. As the production logos begin to appear you hear those familiar opening notes and then the drums, piano, and guitar hit you with the full force of Jefferson Starship’s Jane. As the music plays on, Andrew C. Thornton II (Matthew Rhys) slams open the side door of a moving airplane and it’s obvious he has been sampling the cargo. He’s whooping and hollering as he jettisons red duffel bags of cocaine and dances to the music. And then, with all the bags falling to the woods of Blood Mountain, Georgia, he steps into the doorway with 70 pounds of product strapped to himself and prepares for a dramatic exit. But then as he goes to take the plunge, he hits his head on the doorframe and falls out of the plane, parachute still neatly folded in its pack. Bye, Andrew.
It is an excellent opening for a film.
Now, a completely honest review would tell you that the best thing you can do at this point in the movie is to grab the remote and vigorously mash the home button. It’s a fantastic scene. It lasts one minute and 47 seconds. Nothing in the remaining 93 minutes and 13 seconds can compare to it. Just stop while you’re ahead.
I watched this movie for you, so you won’t have to. You’re welcome.
But since I watched it all, I’ll mention the rest.
Let me say that I’m a little disappointed that this is Ray Liotta’s final completed film role before his death in 2022. He had an amazing career, and this isn’t how it should have ended. That being said, he bought into this film. He went full cheese. The content wasn’t good, but Ray was still Ray.
There’s some decent 80s nostalgia sprinkled here and there. Some recognizable music, a few snippets of Tom Brokaw reporting on the actual story that inspired the movie, and a couple of the bizarre anti-drug campaign PSAs, including the legendary Pee-Wee Herman one.
I do have to say Isiah Whitlock Jr. portrayed Detective Bob Springs well. His part in the film was a high point. If only he had had better material to work with.
For the most part, this movie is a silly and ridiculous farce. If you’re into comical gore and horror, this might be up your alley. But if not, give it a pass.
If you watch, don’t expect a lot of character development or overarching themes. This movie is about a north Georgia black bear hopped up on cocaine and on a rampage. Every time you think the bear has recovered and returned to normal or finally overdosed and died, she finds another parcel and it’s go time once again. So basically it’s a game of ursine Pac-Man. The creature eats a power pellet and then it can eat some people. When the pellet wears off, the people have the upper hand again until the bear finds another one. Basically, the only character developments are either death or enhanced fear of bears on cocaine. And the only overarching theme is that old Rick James adage, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.”
The worst part? Georgia is a destination for filmmakers. There are tax breaks and substantial infrastructure for making movies. And here is a movie set almost entirely in Georgia and filmed entirely in... *checks notes* ummm…Ireland.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire