Antitrust (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/05/2001

Two stars out of five
Running time: 120 mins

Laughably silly techno-thriller – a treat for techies, disappointment for everyone else.

The title of the film refers to the monopolistic practices of a huge computer corporation, stealing new software developments, copying them and then undercutting their business rivals and forcing them to close down. One such corporation is the fictional NURV Corporation of AntiTrust, whose CEO Gary Winston says at the beginning "any kid with a big idea working out of his garage can put us out of business".

In this case, the kid-with-the-big-idea (and the garage) is Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe), a programming genius who accepts a lucrative offer from NURV (delivered by Winston in person) at the beginning of the film. He does this against the wishes of his idealistic best friend and partner Teddy Chin (Yee Jee Tso), who is opposed to corporations like NURV on principle, believing that all code should be ‘open source’ (i.e. freely available to all).

However, when Milo, accompanied by his too-good-to-be-true girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani), relocates to Portland to begin working on an important project for NURV, he discovers Sinister Goings On, that put both him and his friends in danger!

Clearly, someone involved with the production is a passionate believer in the film’s basic message. Unfortunately, the film’s heavy-handed use of sledgehammer metaphors (kids literally being killed for their all-important programming code) means that they might just as well have gone up to a rooftop with a megaphone and yelled "All computer companies are Evil! Evil! Evil!"

To the actor’s credit, they take it all very seriously and handle themselves well – though Robbins is clearly enjoying his role as the baddie. The film doesn’t skimp on eye-candy either – as well as Forlani (MallRats, Meet Joe Black), there’s also Rachel Leigh Cook (She’s All That), as Milo’s attractive colleague, although the film commits the cardinal sin of having two gorgeous women and an attractive male lead and yet failing to include a sex scene with either of them.

The film’s main flaw is that it suddenly becomes Very Silly Indeed. A scene where Milo discovers a bag full of sesame seeds is meant to be a shocking moment (he’s got a deadly allergy to them, see?), but instead comes off as ridiculous and laughable, particularly when underscored by what can only be described as a soundtrack for idiots. On top of this, when Milo suddenly realises what exactly is going on, there is an appallingly-directed montage that hinges on the repetition of the line "It’s not in the box, it’s in the band", and is also likely to induce more giggles than gasps.

Still, at least the film avoids the cliché most familiar to computer-based films (see The Net or Hackers) – that of ENORMOUS TYPE-FACES on the screens! In fact, given the presence of the two female leads, the most interesting thing about the film is the unconventional ending, and it’s this ever-so-slightly subversive touch that earns the film its second star.

In general, then, although anyone remotely connected with the computer industry will find plenty of in-jokes and references to keep them happy, this is probably best avoided, although it’s just about watchable if you don’t take it too seriously and are prepared to laugh at it.

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Content updated: 18/11/2017 08:35

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