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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Antitrust

Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Tim Robbins
Director: Peter Howitt
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: January 2001
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook, Richard Roundtree, Ned Bellamy, Scott Bellis, Douglas Mcferran, Tygh Runyan, Nate Dushku

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

I have a pal, real nice fellow (call him Pete), who could easily pass for the all-American guy except that he's pro-Fidel Castro...thinks everything in Cuba would be just swell except that the American embargo keeps that island nation oppressed. During the election campaign just passed, I asked him how he could justify Castro's remaining in power without opposition for the past forty-one years, reaching fpr Queen Victoria's record and for the tenure of some pharaoh or other while in our democracy we have elections every two years, four years, six years. He replied that the U.S. has a government just as permanent as Fidel's and what's more this immutable power structure is far more reaching and undemocratic than anything you can find in Havana. Invoking former President Eisenhower who warned against the military-industrial complex, he insists that all 281 million of our residents are under the heel of the mega-corporations, who control most important aspects of our lives to say nothing of keeping the politicians dancing to their tune. Is it any wonder that Pete loved Peter Howitt's movie "AntiTrust"? For "AntiTrust" (one of those titles with a double meaning, as in "whom can you trust" and "hey that business of yours has squashed all competition") is a warning to all of us that the corporate structure in the United States is going to control our lives more than ever by dominating all aspects of communication. And what's more, a single company is going to do this without the help of any rivals.

If this scenario brings to mind the recent action of the Justice Department against the giant Microsoft corporation led by Bill Gates; and if Tim Robbins, who performs in the role of Gary Winston, head of the cutthroat company NURV, makes you think that we're already too late to head the communications giant off at the pass--then Howitt, giving scripter Howard Franklin's a taut, fast-paced and youthful evocation of an information-age message monopolizer, is on the money. Despite some occasionally stiff acting and just a smidgen of laughable dialogue, "AntiTrust" succeeds in making its portentous meaning more than reasonably entertaining. While the danger sometimes facing the world of computer geeks is not original--Irwin Winkler's 1995 movie "The Net" featuring Sandra Bullock as a mousy computer whiz whose identity is deleted by a group of weirdos more interested in a disc than in discotheques--"AntiTrust" is the first film that has ever represented sesame seeds as a murder weapon.

The movie centers on Milo (Ryan Philippe), a 23-year-old man so brilliant that NURV's CEO Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) counts on him to deliver a satellite-communications breakthrough ahead of the competition. He is given just forty-two days to accomplish the task, which signals to us that "AntiTrust" is going to have its characters racing against the clock--which they do not just once or twice during the film's 108 minutes. Best friend Teddy (Yee Jee Tso) is angry that Milo has even accepted a job with NURV and not because of envy: Teddy opposes the corporate giant's hegemony over so many aspects of communication because he is idealistic enough to believe that human knowledge belongs to all of us--it should be free--and Teddy remains in the proverbial garage pounding out programs in his attempt to break a code and deliver an information-age Shangri-La to the world. As Milo becomes suspicious of his boss' intentions and methods and begins to realize that billionaire Gary Winston may have bought off people in the Justice Department and even placed a spy in his own home, he puts his life in danger by working overtime to establish proof of his impressions.

Ryan Philippe looks "hot"--as the women in the critics' audience seem to feel, or so I gather from the looks on their faces. When not hititng the keyboard, the young thesp casts sexy glances at his girl friend Alice (Claire Forlani) and flirts with a strangely diffident coworker Lisa (Rachael Leigh Cook). Philippe turns in a convincing peerformance as a kid who looks as though he's just started shaving but whose cybergeek activities help him to save the world from a corporate behemoth. Tim Robbins is even better, given his need to show us that his agenda as head of a Microsoft-style business is in an ethical gray zone (if you can dismiss an occasional murder ordered at his behest). While he is certainly rich enough to retire to his yacht and take things easy, he gets his kicks from manipulating people and binary numbers; donating millions of dollars to art museums and thousands of computers to eager schoolchildren but also engaging in nefarious plots to be the first to perform a major communications breakthrough.

If the plot often seems to be as predictable as a computer going about its tasks without making a single surprising calculation, the movie itself adds up to an diverting vehicle. With pulsating music like "Son of Sam" and "Nietzsche" pumping up the action and some cool effects by Metrolight Studios spinning numbers across the screen, "AntiTrust" has enough suspense and cybertalk and sesame seeds to allow us to suspend disbelief, and could conceivably make Newt Gingrich and Malcolm Forbes question the ethics of capitalism for a couple of hours or so.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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