Antitrust

 
 
Laura Clifford 
 
Robin Clifford 

Young computer genius Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe, "The Way of the Gun") plans on partnering a hi-tech startup with his best friend Teddy (Yee Jee Tso) to provide digital convergence as open source software.  Then he gets a call from Gary Winston (Tim Robbins), the Bill Gates-like owner of N.U.R.V. (Never Underestimate Radical Vision), who wants Milo's expertise for his similar SYNAPSE project.  Milo's charmed by Winston and disappoints his friend by going with 'the enemy,' only to learn that the big corporation is indeed a dangerous foe in "AntiTrust."

Laura:
"AntiTrust" is like "The Firm" without the suspense or romantic intrigue, (I suppose that's what one would expect exchanging software nerds for lawyers) with a dash of "Enemy of the State" thrown in for good measure.

The film, written by Howard Franklin ("The Man Who Knew Too Little") has an intriguing enough, albeit unoriginal, premise - what if a Microsoft-like behemoth was squashing the little guys by stealing their software and then, well, squashing them.  Unfortunately, the film's so obvious it invites laughter in all the wrong places.

Milo leaves southern California for the misty Northwest (Portland rather than Seattle) with his girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani, "Meet Joe Black") and falls for the apparent programming utopia that is N.U.R.V's campus.  He gets Winston as his personal counselor (a first time honor at N.U.R.V), a beautiful new home, flashy new car and a look from Lisa, (Rachael Leigh Cook, "She's All That") the loner female programmer that has the nerds drooling.

He also gets unexpected help from Winston in programming the highly complex adapter that will allow any digital device to communicate with any other digital device.  The first time Gary presents him with a CDROM, Milo's desktop is displaying CNN footage of the car accident death of a top MIT software engineer - my, could there be a connection here?  Milo doesn't get a clue until it's hammered into his head - not only does his best friend get murdered in an apparent hate crime, but Gary parrots back Teddy's very words as he slips Milo yet another disk.

"AntiTrust" is the type of ludicrous flick that has a CEO whipping up his team to produce a highly sophisticated product within 49 days, then shows that project's lead programmer playing Nancy Drew while the rest of the team generally keeps 9-5 hours.  A supposedly exotic plot twist involves an allergy to sesame seeds.

Director Peter Howitt, whose last film, "Sliding Doors," was a pleasant enough entertainment, doesn't just take a step back, he falls wildly backwards into a ditch.  He gets little in the way of performances.  Phillippe, who showed surprising depth in "The Way of the Gun," acts by way of his eyeglasses in this one.  Robbins pulls out his "Arlington Road" villain and makes him less interesting.  Rachel Leigh Cook is a statue while Forlani fares somewhat better by at least using facial expressions.

John Bailey's ("For the Love of the Game") cinematography is nice enough, but relies on 360 degree camera swirls once too often.  Editting by Zach Staenberg ("The Matrix") throws the film's pacing off - it flows along too leisurely then lurches forward with too many important plot points compressed into too little time - repeat cycle.  Some special effects are interesting, such as the changing digital art in Winston's palatial home.

The climax of the movie requires one too many leaps of faith from its audience (as if it hasn't already been taxed at this point).  "AntiTrust" is a hack.

D

Robin:
Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) is a Bill Gates style entrepreneur on the brink of deploying a vast, satellite-based communications system that will change the world. He recruits a brilliant young computer nerd, Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe), to implement the final piece of software and bring the system on line. But, Milo soon finds out that his benevolent mentor is no Mr. Nice Guy in "AntiTrust"

You can tell when the movies of the New Year begin showing up at theaters. We go from the sublime work with year-end films like "Traffic" and "Thirteen Days," to the ridiculous dreck of the likes of "AntiTrust." The sophomore effort by director Peter Howitt ("Sliding Doors") is a ho-hum, routine action thriller that lacks any thrills, is badly paced and poorly written.

The premise surrounding "AntiTrust" is a typical David versus the corporate Goliath. The good guys, Milo and his friends, are on the verge of creating a startup company that could shake things up in worldwide communications. Winston, with his billions of dollars, is the main competition for the lads. He uses his money and kind and friendly demeanor to tempt Milo to come on board his precious project. The temptation is too much for the young genius and Milo, with the encouragement of his girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani), goes over to the enemy, shirking his friends.

Things look bright and perky for Milo as Gary acts as his mentor and provides for all his worldly needs. But, things aren't what they seem. Winston, miraculously, can always "find" the software that Milo needs to complete his piece of the project, called Synapse. Recent reports of the bizarre deaths of some of the area's top programmers don't sink into Milo's head until he learns of a supposed hate crime - the brutal murder of his best friend and startup crony, Teddy (Yee Jee Tso). As the pieces fall into place in his mind, Milo sees that Winston is the root of the corporate evil that threatens to rule the world's communications system.

This David and Goliath yarn incorporates stock suspense items like racing against the clock and risking capture to break into the company computer - not once, but twice. We get the cheap, jump out of the dark scares that are a trademark for a lack of imagination in writing. There are also twists and turns in who is on Milo's side and who wants him dead, so not all the characters, like his girlfriend Alice and co-worker Lisa (Rachel Leigh Cook) are not who they seem to be. All these gyrations do not make the story more interesting, just confusing.

I'm not a fan of Ryan Phillippe, finding the actor too mannered and wooden. He is just that in "AntiTrust," evoking neither sympathy nor empathy for Milo. Tim Robbins' Gary Winston is a near carbon copy of the role he played in "Arlington Road" a year or two ago. The difference is, Robbins had a well-developed character to play in the older movie. Here, he is given virtually nothing to do. Supporting cast is nondescript.

Production values are decent, but, without a good story or characters to hang them upon, they are a wasted effort. Let's hope that "AntiTrust" isn't the new standard for Hollywood filmmaking. I give it a D-.

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