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