Whether its release date had always been planned or not, "Antitrust,"
directed by Peter Howitt, is a January movie through and through. Silly and
inconsequential, the film would have no chance of making it in the more
competitive summer or fall months, so it has been chosen to be put to a quick
death when everyone is still preoccupied with the stronger films of the
year's past. The cast may be an attractive one, but they are not helped by
Howard Franklin's sophomoric, moronic screenplay that offers up more plot
twists than I'd care to count, not one of which is particularly surprising.
Just as big-time computer genius Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) is on the verge
of cracking digital convergence, which is the ability to link all forms of
digital communications in the world through one mega-feed, computer geek Milo
(Ryan Phillippe) and his friend Teddy (Yee Jee Tso) are about to accomplish
the very same thing--for free. When Milo receives an offer from Gary to join
his team at NURV ("Never Underestimate Radical Vision") up near Portland, he
can't resist but to accept. But after Teddy is found murdered, Milo gradually
suspects that it might be connected with his new place of employment, and
more specifically, to Gary Winston. Enlisting in his aid are the two closest
women in his life: his artsy girlfriend, Alice (Claire Forlani), and his
coworker, Lisa (Rachael Leigh Cook).
"Antitrust" is a severely problematic film from the very beginning, and
keeping under consideration the mediocrity of its writing, Ryan Phillippe's
amateurish performance can't be ignored. The first film in which he was
publicized as receiving a $1-million salary, Phillippe fails to hold up his
end of the bargain, as he (1) does not create an alluring character, and (2)
is a vacuous presence onscreen. Even when he's playing smart (as he is here),
there doesn't seem to be much of anything going on upstairs.
Not helping matters is the slow pacing the movie adopts for its first half,
followed by a more interesting second hour that, nonetheless, becomes
ludicrous in its twists and turns. A setpiece in the middle of the picture,
in which Milo sneaks around the company grounds after hours, intent on
discovering the truth of the situation, is tense and a lot of fun, but it is
never matched in either the suspense or entertainment departments.
The females in "Antitrust" are on hand as little more than window-dressing,
and their only purpose is to look suspicious when they also become suspected
by Milo of being in on it. Claire Forlani (2000's "Boys and Girls") does what
she can with her stock girlfriend role, and is, indeed, the most talented of
the trio of popular young actors. Meanwhile, Rachael Leigh Cook (1999's
"She's All That"), as the shy Lisa, is sorely wasted, and the payoff of her
character is an injustice to the actress. Both Forlani and Cook deserve
better than this film has to offer.
As the nerdy Gary Winston, Tim Robbins is a genuine hoot, as he seems to have
perfected the look and act of Bill Gates himself. Robbins brings a class to
the project that it probably doesn't even deserve, though I hasten to add
that he is so obviously the bad guy that it's hard to believe director Peter
Howitt would treat this development as an unforeseen circumstance.
"Antitrust" is the type of motion picture in which its bright technical
aspects far outweigh the story and characters. Where there is nearly a black
hole in the place of everything that happens, the cinematography, by John
Bailey, is sleekly beautiful, and the production design of NURV is quite a
treat for the eyes. The use of some good rock songs, including "Heroes" by
The Wallflowers, aid in enlivening the proceedings. And the use of sloppy
editing and inane plotting aid in sinking the whole affair. It's sad when
even the costume designs (which consist mainly of tee-shirts and slacks) call
attention to themselves because the movie they're in does not offer any other
level of interest. That is the only unpredictable thing "Antitrust" has to
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman