Movie Information

Genre: Thriller
Director: Peter Howitt
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Tim Robbins, Rachel Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani
Rated: PG-13

Squarely aimed at a youth market, Antitrust is really little more than a typical tepid thriller that’s been tarted-up with modern technology (some of which looks pretty specious), an appealing cast of young actors, a handful of genuinely clever plot twists, and one of the most unfortunate unintentionally funny lines ever to sneak by preview audiences. All in all, the film plays like an adolescent version of Sneakers, minus most of the wit that marked that movie. As is common with computer-technology movies, we’re knee-deep in the realm of “the geek shall inherit the earth” — though, of course, nearly all the “geeks” in Antitrust (exempting the villain) are so utterly gorgeous that the appellation doesn’t apply. That said, Antitrust is an OK and harmless movie that whiles away a pleasant enough two hours with its attractive cast and convoluted — but untaxing and non-threatening — plot. The premise isn’t especially complex: Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions) plays Milo Hoffman, a computer genius who is tapped by computer entrepreneur Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) to help meet a deadline launch for his global information system. Of course, it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems and Winston is not the answer to Milo’s dreams, but is rather the ultimate Evil Nerd out to rule the world — or at least the world of computerdom. Winston is obviously meant to represent Microsoft magnate Bill Gates taken to an extreme. In Robbins’ hands, the portrayal actually works for most of the film’s running time. Robbins runs the gamut from playing avuncular, nice-guy tycoon (why, he’s just a big enthusiastic kid) to sinister businessman to raving megalomaniac. He’s quite the best thing in the movie. The problem — or one of the problems — is that the audience knows Winston is not a nice person almost at once. It takes Milo about two-thirds of the film to reach this conclusion (at which point director Howitt treats us to an hysterically overemphatic moment of clarity for Milo that only serves to make us wonder that much more just how dumb the fellow can be). The suspense sequences work moderately well, but are so spaced out that they become repetitive. The best parts of the film — apart from Robbins’ performance and one fairly surprising plot twist — are little bits and pieces, such as Winston scarfing down handfuls of Pringles (a nice touch that the man is seemingly addicted to such an utterly manufactured product) and the gruesome graphics that are shown to be part and parcel of a more complex and darker Milo than the character, as written, suggests. In the end, Antitrust is fun enough while it’s onscreen, and more instantly forgettable than an easily mastered computer game.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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