It’s been ten years since the end of World War II, and American secret agent/assassin Johnny Valentine (Armitage Shanks) is still hurting over being separated from the love of his life, the Russian assassin Katerina Molotov (Carrie Schiffler). Still, a job needs to be done, and Valentine is back at his old tricks, recruiting the beautiful but dangerous Canadian Bourbon Sue (Roxi D’Lite) as his latest “burlesque assassin.” Alongside London’s Bombshell Belle (Kiki Kaboom) and Germany’s Koko La Douce (Koko La Douce), Bourbon Sue is tasked with recovering the codes necessary to operate the dangerous Nazi Atomic Death Ray that went missing as the Cold War ramped up. All the ladies have to do is what they’re best at, seducing and killing their targets, especially considering one of those targets is the clone of Hitler (Brendan Hunter).
The Burlesque Assassins delivers on its title, which is to say that fans of burlesque and assassinations are going to get both. Which is what makes this review tricky, because I think its a solid film that presents exactly what you think it might, but something seems strangely underwhelming about it all.
But first, the good. The film looks great, and works within a campy tone that is extremely entertaining. When it comes to the burlesque performances, by the main assassins and the other performers, they all are top-notch. If you’re a fan of burlesque, the film is already worth checking out. When it comes to delivering some gruesome moments of violence, the film goes appropriately over-the-top there too. It’s a somewhat goofy film, playing its wackiness to the sometimes cartoonish hilt, and fun all around.
And that fun is mostly due to the performances. Whether it’s Armitage Shank’s Johnny Valentine growling and cigar-chomping through another line, the ridiculousness of Brendan Hunter’s Clone of Hitler portrayal or Roxi D’Lite playing innocent and naive as an assassin, but as seasoned a pro as they come as a burlesque dancer, so much about this film charms. And technically, it even looks and sounds great. So why didn’t I adore it?
Honestly, it has to do with the main set piece of the film, where Valentine and the ladies try to get their hands on the missing codes for the death ray. For practically two-thirds of the film it’s a series of burlesque performances by our assassins and other dancers, all set in one club, as the assassins go about their mission. There are elements that distract somewhat, but the film becomes mired in repetition as you wait for the dance, the seduction, the assassination and then lather, rinse, repeat.
And the filmmakers know that it can feel repetitious, because they try to break things up with flashback footage, or other bits and pieces to distract you from the fact that we’re still in the club, doing the same thing over and over again. The problem there is that even the attempts to break up the routine become routine, until the entire thing drags. It’s disappointing because the film is set up to be this wacky, fun time, and in numerous moments it is, but it loses its steam for huge chunks of its duration. The flick starts strong, and it ends strong, but unless you are a huge fan of burlesque in the meantime, the overall momentum is lost.
Which is ultimately why I didn’t adore the film. I loved pieces of it, but that main set piece feels like something that should’ve been utilized for, say, one attempt at the codes in a singular scene, and then another scene in another setting for the remaining elements. That way you could break things up better, deliver something new and keep the camp factor fun and work in more locations. Even if the attempts were routine, they would feel different because enough elements were different.
That said, however, if you want to watch great burlesque performances, this film’s got them. Again, it delivers exactly what it advertises in its title, and it does so in an accomplished and strong manner. I just think, given all the talent involved, they could’ve kicked even more a*s had the film been able to escape that main setting.
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