From the Archive – Antitrust (2001)

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Directed by Peter Howitt
Starring Ryan Phillipe, Rachel Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani and Tim Robbins

Computer genius Milo Hoffman (Phillipe) and his friends invent a new uber-compression algorithm for data transmission, and are invited by Gary Winston (Robbins) – the head of the world’s largest computer firm – to work for him on the development of his new universal software. The friends decline, but Milo accepts, and becomes a yuppie overnight, as well as Winston’s personal protégé. He works on the programmes, and keeps being fed new bits of code, until he starts to become suspicious when his best friend is murdered in his home.

With a little nifty hacking, Milo discovers that Winston has been keeping tabs on every garage hacker in the world and stealing their ideas. He also tracks ways to dispose of his people if they betray him, such as planting Milo’s girlfriend Alice (Forlani), who turns out to be an ex-con, and noting his fatal allergy to sesame seeds, or knowing that the office babe’s abusive stepfather could be framed for her murder. Enlisting the assistance of Lisa (Leigh-Cook), said office babe, Milo tries to avoid the security manager, find and steal the evidence, and use Winston’s own satellite system to broadcast it to the world.

He gets the goods, but Lisa turns him in to Winston’s goons. However, with the aid of the honest security chief, his old buddies, and his surprisingly OK girlfriend, he pulls a fast one, and the message goes out. The day is saved, Milo slips off with his girlfriend and open source rules the world.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s really boring. Nothing much happens in the first hour of the damn film, and not even in a good, tension-building kind of way; just nothing happens. He goes to work, he does his job, flirts a little with the office babe. That’s pretty much it. In the second half, the action is piled on so fast that nothing makes sense, especially when you’re still trying to adjust to the shift in pace. The plot is also contrived beyond belief, with Winston having cameras installed in the garages of all promising young hackers. ALL OF THEM! Not to mention setting up the girlfriend to be in just the right place at the right time.

What’s right with it?

Well, on the plus side, no one ever talks in l33t-speak.

How bad is it really?

Bad. Achingly, bone-warpingly dull. Please note that I was unable to name a single character in this film without looking them up on the IMDb! Moreover, it’s just a retread of every hacker conspiracy theory in the world, even if it does feel the need to throw in a few ‘Bill Gates is a half-arsed evil emperor’ jibes. I didn’t even pay for this film, yet I felt ripped off that I surrendered two hours of my life to watch it not be remotely involving.

Best bit

Hum…Little sticks out really.

What’s up with…?

  • With his labyrinthine plots and tentacled-beast-like control of the universe, how come Mr Winston has no idea that his chief of security is suspicious of his motives and willing to betray him at the drop of a hat?
  • The auto-switching pictures? This is a potential plot device introduced early, but never used to any real effect. The pictures shift at one point in order to alert the viewer to Winston’s presence, but since he steps into shot a second later, there isn’t much need.

Ratings

Production Values – such as they are – this being a techno-thriller rather than a sci-fi movie – production values are OK. The world almost invariably looks very dingy though; not sure if that’s deliberate or just bad cinematography. 10

Dialogue and performances – most of the actors in the film are actually pretty much OK, and Tim Robbins is – as usual – very good. Unfortunately, they are given the most uninspiring pap to speak that their skills go pretty-much for naught. Even the dramatic conspiracy revelations fail to grip. 16

Plot and execution – the essentials of the plot of Antitrust could be etched on the back of a silicon chip. There’s a grand total of about one real twist, and that a pretty lame one. But more than this, the pacing of the non-plot is bad. Great bouts of nothingness slide by, with far less panache than is achieved by the French auteurs the director may be trying to emulate. In short, it’s dull, and it’s directed in such a way as to make it more so. 18

Randomness – Aside from the wackiness of the whole plot, there’s not a huge amount of sudden randomness. 4

Waste of Potential – There’s still mileage in the evil empire techno-thriller, but even The Net was better than this. 15

Overall 63%

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