antitrust(2001)
director: peter howitt
ryan phillipe, tim robbins, claire forlani, rachel leigh cook

 
. If you were paranoid enough, you might imagine that the release of Antitrust, a cyberthriller set in a (literally) cutthroat world of computer software, is a deviously clever ploy to garner public sympathy for Bill Gates and Microsoft on the eve of a ruling in their monopoly case with the U.S. Federal court.

The story is familiar enough. Milo, a talented young computer geek (a numbingly expressionless Ryan Phillipe, whose character's geek name sounds like it was generated by screenplay-writing software) is courted personally by the charismatic, fabulously successful CEO of the world’s biggest tech company, played with a palatable mix of relish and ham by Tim Robbins. The CEO, an unlikely sort of cross between Gates and a Bond villain, is about to launch a satellite-linked, high-bandwidth, infinitely compatible communications network, the ultimate “killer app”, and he needs geeks like Milo to make it happen.

In the course of the entirely suspense-free plot, he naturally discovers a fiendish conspiracy by the CEO to steal code from promising young hackers who refuse to join his stock-option paradise. When his best friend becomes a victim -- code obtained, the hackers are violently dispatched -- he decides to fight back, only to discover that his girlfriend is working for the CEO. The fact that he even has a girlfriend, and that the girlfriend is played by Claire Forlani, should be a tip-off that Antitrust really is science fiction.

There’s a double-cross, of course, that barely registers as shocking, and a passionate speech about how “information must be free” that could have come from Wired magazine circa 1997. It’s all so dull and passion-free, however, that you find yourself wishing that, somehow, Robbins had won. In the end, Antitrust is like a Bond film where Goldfinger is sexier than 007.


 
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