So, is there a real case for disqualifying “Drive”? For that to be true, the fifty per cent that Martinez wrote by himself would have to be dramatically negligible and the songs that appear in the film would have to be anchoring key dramatic moments. Watching the film three times, I simply didn’t find that to be true. The movie’s opening scene—which you can watch here, narrated by Refn, though without the music or dialogue, sadly—is a masterful layering of sounds that court total discord but somehow remain separate and intelligible, thereby making them all the more nerve-scraping: the pulse of a drum machine, a police radio, a basketball game broadcast, the beeping of an open car door. This music is Johnny Jewel’s song for the Chromatics, “Tick of the Clock,” which he rebuilt from scratch for the movie.
Other than that, the key moments of the movie, several of them wildly violent, are paired with Martinez’s music, a subtly unnerving blend of sentimental and brutal sounds. The pop songs happen during some of the movie’s most slack and generic scenes, like a montage of a jolly trip to a river, complete with innocent child. Those are not the moments that typify “Drive.” Meanwhile, Martinez chose to give his programmers songwriting credit because they deserved it, and so they could be paid as the movie made its way, commercially, through the world. An honest labor practice ends up hurting Martinez, despite having fifty per cent of the movie’s music credited to him alone.