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Dustin Putman

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Antitrust (2001)
1 Stars

Directed by Peter Howitt
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tim Robbins, Richard Roundtree, Yee Jee Tso
2001 – 108 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (language and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 12, 2001.

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 offer.

©2001 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman