UPDATE: Cocaine Bear has been released and people and reviewers have said it is surprisingly gorey and awesome. So there. You can stream it at home via Amazon right now.
Bears have been walking this planet for about 5 million years. There’s no way of knowing how many have lived and died in that unfathomable amount of time. But one thing’s for sure: No bear in all those millennia ever died the way one 175-pound Georgia bear died when he ate an ungodly amount of pure cocaine in 1985. He OD’d and was later found “next to about 40 empty containers of cocaine.” Now, his unbelievably true story will be told on the big screen in the new film Cocaine Bear — sort of.
From the recently dropped trailer for the new flick, it looks like the Hollywood treatment of the infamous cocaine bear tale takes the basic idea of the already wild true story and uses it to set up what looks to be an absolutely fucking ridiculous horror-comedy that follows a coked-up bear as he rips people asunder and chases down ambulances on the highway while continuing to do copious amounts of cocaine.
Cocaine Bear is set to hit theaters on Feb. 24, 2023, and if the whole movie is like the trailer, we are so there for it. From the brief teaser, it looks like the story begins true to life, with a drug smuggler in a small plane ditching a duffel bag of cocaine over northern Georgia. Ever heard that Reverend Horton Heat song?
Back in the day, smugglers flew small planes into the U.S. at low altitudes and dropped their illicit cargo over a predetermined spot where someone else would be waiting to scoop it up. Sometimes, they missed. There was a Tom Cruise movie, American Made (2017), about one of the pilots who made a career out of this kind of smuggling — and working for the CIA.
Anyway, some of the coke the smuggler ditches ends up in the woods, where a black bear finds it, gets curious, and proceeds to eat entire kilos of the sweet nose clams (he swallows one package whole while lying on his back).
In real life, the smuggler, Andrew Thorton, later attempted to abandon the plane after ditching his illegal cargo but died trying to pull a D. B. Cooper; his parachute failed to open. His body landed “in some guy’s yard in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
Meanwhile, a bear came along, found Thorton’s duffel bag, and apparently just chowed down on what was likely some really pure Bolivian marching powder until he died in place.
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“Its stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine. There isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that,” said the medical examiner who performed a necropsy on the animal. “Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it.”
That’s where the similarities between fact and fiction appear to end. In the movie, instead of the bear simply overdosing on yayo, we get to see what that bear’s final hours could have been like if the fish-scale hadn’t killed him, and instead, the now-coke-addicted apex predator mauled a dozen or so people in a furious drug-fueled search for another bump “…and blood.”
It’s a truly bizarre and absurd concept for a movie, but it may totally work, and it also may be one of the few movies to use a not-quite-real-but-real-enough CG bear and have it actually play. With a cast packed full of veteran character actors that includes the late, great Ray Liotta in one of his final roles, this movie is going to either be an absolute blast or purely painful to sit through.
The fact that it’s directed by comedy veteran Elizabeth Banks is a good sign, but she also directed Charlie’s Angels (2019), which did not do so great. But that wasn’t a comedy. Was it? I don’t know, I conformed and didn’t see it like everyone else.
Cocaine Bear probably isn’t going to be a classic of any genre, but it should be a good bit of gory fun. And hey, from what we’ve seen, it doesn’t look like it makes hunters out to be the bad guys, which would be nice for a change.
The real cocaine bear, who has since been dubbed Pablo EskoBear, (yes, you now want that on a T-shirt, and that’s okay), was taxidermied and is on display at Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington. In real life, Pablo didn’t kill anyone and likely spent his last moments jabbering to a squirrel about the absolute genius of The Talking Heads while examining the band’s entire catalog lyric by lyric from memory.
There’s also a whole wild story behind the journey of the taxidermied bear before it ended up in Lexington. At one point, it was owned by country music legend and notorious fan of cocaine, Waylon Jennings, who bought it from a pawn shop after it mysteriously disappeared from a storage facility after being evacuated from the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area ahead of a wildfire. That part probably won’t make it into the movie, but you never know.
Cocaine Bear hits theaters on Feb. 24, 2023. Mark those calendars; this flick might be just what you need to get through one of the grimmest months of the year.
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