In “Judgment in Flames,” a female reporter faces domestic difficulty as well as intense job pressure that involves the pursuit of an elusive arsonist. While the premise could easily be played for action and suspense, the melodramatic focus of this well-mounted pic recalls ’40s Hollywood tales about women dealing with the workaday world. Though hardly an arthouse item, the Taipei-set drama could ignite interest at fests dealing with women and Asian issues.
Jade (nicely played by attractive Rachel Chang) has just begun to get established as a reporter when her boss leans on her to land a breakthrough scoop about a series of fires that have been plaguing the city. Practically, the assignment is complicated by the lack of cooperation Jade gets from the gruff police captain (Jackson Lou) heading the investigation. Emotionally, it’s made more difficult by the fact that any success for Jade will come at the expense of an older male colleague who’s being edged out to pasture by their superiors.
Her private life, meanwhile, is no idyll. She’s turning 30, so her tradition-minded parents want to see her settle down into a conventional marriage, but her boyfriend (Leon Dai) is a self-involved would-be novelist who lives off her and seems little inclined to alter that easy arrangement.
The central conflict — between being a good, compassionate person and being a success in a demanding, male-dominated world — gets an additional twist when Jade discovers that her kindhearted informant, Kenny (Chiao-the Yin), is the arsonist whose identification will bring her the renown she seeks.
While pic’s languorous pacing is more suited to a character study than to the thriller it could be, helmer James Chia-ming Liu shows impressive control of his stylistic elements and gets assured perfs from a talented, attractive cast. Tech credits are pro.