Starring Roxi Dlite, Armitage Shanks. Written and directed by Jonathan Joffe. STC. 96 min. July 20, 11 p.m. at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
If there was ever a movie title that promised the maximum degree of va-va-voom, it’s The Burlesque Assassins. A Calgary-made feature that has its local premiere at this weekend’s Toronto Burlesque Festival, it’s nearly as impressive for the names in its cast list—such queens of the stage as Roxi Dlite, Kiki Kaboom, and Koko La Douce star as buxom secret agents on a mission to “seduce and destroy.” But while The Burlesque Assassins delivers some of the promised campy, cheeky fun, it’s a shame it doesn’t have more of the good stuff.
A Cold War–era spy movie spoof, Jonathan Joffe’s debut feature plays like one of James Coburn’s Derek Flint flicks, albeit with more pasties. Secretly founded in World War II to literally bring Axis villains to their knees, the titular agency (yes, there will be puns) enlists a naïve newbie named Bourbon Sue (Dlite) for an assignment that’s even more dangerous than usual. The search for a “Nazi atomic death ray” leads our heroines to a nightclub where they must use their wiles and womanly assets to ensnare a trio of baddies that includes Benito Mussolini Jr. and Hitler’s clone.
Along with the cartoonish fight scenes and corny jokes spoken in dubious European accents, there’s an ample serving of burlesque routines. Alas, only Dlite’s mid-air act has as much panache as the stage sequences in On Tour, French actor and filmmaker’s Mathieu Amalric’s 2010 drama about a burlesque troupe. The raunch factor is also surprisingly low—they may reveal more skin than the Pussycat Dolls, but compared to the grind-happy guys of Magic Mike, the performers here are downright wholesome. Even so, the cast’s enthusiasm ensures that The Burlesque Assassins fulfils its own mission as a sexy and silly showcase of retro-smutty hijinks.