Leyre’s newfound penchant for criminal activity stems from a desperate desire to look after her family, a motive Verdú conveys adeptly and which almost justifies how rapidly the situation spirals. However, this is held back by her family simultaneously being the catalyst for the entire mess in the first place: her businessman ex-husband is corrupt, her wheelchair-bound mum constantly antagonises her nurse, and her teenage son Asier (Asier Rikarte) simply makes baffling choices. Without spoiling too much, Asier is the first character in CRIME WAVE we witness committing a crime; I was initially tempted to dismiss how jarring this felt due to it being early in the film, yet the script never offers any development or context for this behaviour. It’s outright uncomfortable how little Asier seems to be affected by his actions, especially when Querejeta allows a darker tone to take over anyway during later pivotal scenes. I’m unsure whether he’s even CRIME WAVE’s most problematic character though, since his friend and classmate Julen (Miguel Bernardeau) has an equally disturbing arc. Julen ostensibly befriended Asier in the first place due to the former’s infatuation with Leyre, an arrangement neither of the boys take issue with for some reason. When Leyre discovers the truth, she is thankfully quick to shut Julen down, but that doesn’t stop him from eventually coercing her into sex when she needs to use him as an alibi. Although Asier’s exact age is unclear, it’s explicitly stated that Julen has been held back in school three times. I’m certainly no screenwriter, but this flimsy explanation doesn’t help his dynamic with Leyre feel any less creepy.
In addition to its non-existent character development and inability to make viewers emotionally invest, CRIME WAVE likewise struggles to form its scattered plot threads into a cohesive narrative. The scene order seems arbitrary at best, with Querejeta and editor Leire Alonso often focusing on elements of the story that can be interesting but fail to justify their existence. For instance, the detectives investigating Leyre have complete backstories and arcs with a suitably grim conclusion I alluded to above. This sequence also shows the most directorial flair of CRIME WAVE’s runtime, yet ultimately feels like it belongs in a different film. Due to this misplaced focus, the third act feels rushed and devoid of logic; characters’ actions are once again confusing due to a lack of context, and at times only serve to explain the events of the opening confessional scene. Perhaps most egregiously though, CRIME WAVE is simply boring: its (largely) uninspired jokes fall flat, while the unlikable characters make it hard to even care what happens. Verdú is the only actor who I would say does her best with the material, but it’s not enough to save this disaster of a film.