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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

ANTITRUST, a thinly veiled cinematic diatribe against Bill Gates and Microsoft, is a thriller about truth, justice and the open source code movement. Tim Robbins (ARLINGTON ROAD) stars as Gary Winston, the head and founder of a monopolistic software conglomerate known as Synapse which like Microsoft is based in the Pacific Northwest. Gary is made to look and dress almost exactly like Gates. He lives in a home like Gates's island house, right down to the electronic paintings on the walls. Synapse even has the government on his back like Microsoft does. "The Justice Department is driving me nuts!" Gary complains. But wait, Synapse has more than killer apps. They've got killer thugs on the payroll.

In a pseudo-wink to the audience, Gary says that he's not like Bill Gates. With this line the studio can argue, perhaps not with a straight face, that Gary Winston really isn't meant to be Bill Gates after all.

Putting aside the Bill Gates connection, the movie is pretty much a standard thriller in which no one is quite who they seem to be. Sinister actions abound, even at Synapse's on-site day care center. Robbins approaches his role like that of a cad in a vaudeville melodrama. You half expect him to grab a cloak, cover his nose with his elbow and sneer into the camera with a "Ya, ha, ha."

Still, as an over-the-top thriller, it is far from the worst. The film, directed by Peter Howitt and written by Howard Franklin, works hard to get the details of the technology and the slang right. Even if what they claim to be able to accomplish with their gadgets may have more technologically sophisticated viewers guffawing, the script is at least fairly consistent. Basically, Synapse is an Evil Empire with incredible snooping powers that it would leave the CIA and the KGB in awe.

Gary, who munches Pringles non-stop and guzzles Pepsi, -- don't you love those product placements? -- personally recruits Milo Hoffmann (Ryan Phillippe). Milo, is a new Computer Science graduate from Stanford. His graduate buddies want him to take the money from the venture capitalists and work with them in their Palo Alto garage. How do you spell cliché? Well, Gary has been watching Milo -- and I do mean "watching" -- and wants him to come to work instead on Synapse's hottest product. It's a bet-the-company project that must ship in less than two months. Quickly, it's goodbye fellow nerds for Milo. He's gone to join the enemy. You see, we are lectured about how nefarious Synapse is because it will not give away its source code. (Did I mention yet that Microsoft archrival Scott McNealy from Sun Microsystems gets to do a cameo?)

"The software business is binary," Gary, acting like some kind of cult leader, lectures Milo. "It's either one or zero. You're either alive, or you're dead." Gary, who speaks in something approximating marketing slogans, likes to scream things like, "No limits!"

With all pervasive villainy, Gary and his minions surreptitiously drain the collective programming knowledge of the world and pump it into their headquarters. Milo is ready to fight back, if he can just figure out whom to trust. Want to bet on who will win? Oh well, given the other films opening Friday, ANTITRUST can lay claim to the title of only the third worst film of the week.

ANTITRUST runs 1:43. The film is sometimes in technogeek, but there are no English subtitles. It is rated PG-13 for some violence and brief language and would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.

Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes

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