There’s no clumsy exposition here to explain motivations but delicately scattered crumbs involving status, family and the crippling strain of competitive masculinity.
Kevin P. Sullivan
There isn’t much room for nuance in his script, and the movie’s darkness (literally: too many poorly lit nighttime scenes are more heard than seen) undermines its message. But there’s something powerful even in its predictability.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Burning Sands, Gerald McMurray's feature filmmaking debut, is one of the fresher entries, thanks mainly to its setting: a historically black fraternity on a historically black campus like Howard, the university where the co-writer and director got his degree.
The occasional heavy-handed or clumsy elements don’t seriously impair a film whose high spirits, talented cast and luridly intriguing subject consistently entertain, even if they seldom truly surprise.
McMurray fixates too much on the brutality of his subject, foregoing any meaningful character development. The result is a film about punishment that is quite punishing to watch.
The Hollywood Reporter
First-time director McMurray, who worked as an associate producer on Fruitvale Station, does a decent job of staging the action and maintaining viewer attention on the straight-line story. But there’s no subtext, investigation of his characters’ various stories or motivations for doing what they’re doing. It’s a very shallow film.
Los Angeles Times
In the absence of a more dramatically dynamic approach to that awfully familiar subject matter, “Burning Sands” proves neither as incendiary nor as challenging as intended.