The earnest but terribly ham-fisted drama “Burning Blue” is set mostly in the 1990s, during the days of the U.S. military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The film could have been a still-vital snapshot of gay soldiers forced to stay closeted for fear of retribution and dismissal. But it feels positively antiquated in the hands of writer-director D.M.W. Greer, whose decades-old, semi-autobiographical stage play is the basis for this movie. (The play, first performed in London in 1995, ran in 1998 at Los Angeles’ now-defunct Court Theatre.)
The story finds naval officer Dan Lynch (Trent Ford) the focus of an internal investigation after being spotted carousing in a Manhattan gay bar with fellow squadron pilot Matt Blackwood (Rob Mayes). Why the circumspect — and outwardly “straight” — Dan and Matt would have danced shirtless together in full of view of others (including, it turns out, a few soldier buddies) is mighty curious.
But, like so much else here, this pivotal moment is awkwardly rendered. Due in part to some choppy shooting and editing, events and interactions often unfold in confusing, seemingly truncated fashion. Several alleged military maneuvers and their related entanglements are especially baffling.
Matters are not helped by scads of hackneyed dialogue. Most problematic, though, is the portrayal of the doomed love between Dan and Matt. Their underdeveloped romance largely consists of furtive glances, forced denials and abortive clinches. When the guys finally do kiss, it might as well be the 1950s for all the heat they generate. “Brokeback Mountain” it ain’t.
MPAA rating: R for language, sexual content and graphic nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
Playing: At AMC Burbank Town Center 8. Also on VOD.