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Starring Ryan Phillippe, Claire Forlani and Tim Robbins; Rachael Leigh Cook
Screenplay by Howard Franklin
Directed by Peter Howitt

IN SHORT: Sometimes too much conspiracy is just too much to enjoy. [Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief language. 110 minutes]

For the mindset that felt The Fight Club made important and significant statements comes Antitrust, a piece of balderdash that will wow everyone who still thinks that unseen conspiracies run the world -- it's important to note that this is not a story of unseen conspiracies that run the world . . . unless, of course, it is. What begins as a story of friends torn apart by the lure of stock options and the opportunity to work for a software God abruptly goes 180 and turns into a would be high tension thriller where every aspect of our hero's life has been manipulated from the word go. It's a thinly veiled metaphor for Microsoft Windows versus the Linux operating system; with a pseudo-Bill Gates playing the role of the anti-Christ.

No, we're not a Mac user and we're not thrilled with Windows '98 either. Antitrust looks farther into the future, which is really going to be a battle between Windows CE and Bluetooth . . . but I'm geeking out on you. You don't have to be a geek to understand what's going on in Antitrust. What little geek talk is important to the story is clearly explained early on as we meet Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe) and best bud Teddy Chin (Yee Jee Tso). With computer programming skills unsurpassed among any of their graduating class, they are determined to change the world with new software whose Source Code would be free to everyone ('cuz they'd make their money from tech support)! But then super evil master of the computer world, multi-billionaire Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) summons the pair to come check out his spread, at the software conglomerate named N.U.R.V ("Never Underestimate Radical Vision").

Teddy has principles and believes in his vision of software that is free for all. Milo is, uh, well, the job is a dream -- it involves writing software for a system of orbital satellites that will allow instantaneous communication between all electronic devices worldwide-- and it comes with a house and a condo for his significant femme (Claire Forlani). Milo is in charge of writing the final pieces of software which will allow for translation between devices. Every time he gets stuck, there's a smile from gorgeous geek Lisa (Rachael Leigh Cook) and a brand new piece of code from the boss. The coincidences don't rub Milo the wrong way. The genius boss is, after all, a genius.

While the friendship with Teddy is strained, patches are put in place before something really awful happens to the guy. While the cops come in and quickly clean up the mess, something Gary says triggers a memory in Milo and all of a sudden the synapses in his geekhead fire off like a string of M-80s. The boss knew things that he couldn't have. A hi-tech camera that looks like a fishing fly was missed by the police. There's a supersecret building on the N.U.R.V. campus that must hold the secret...

Well, that's why it's secret. All we've written about the story so far is all the basis a good conspiracy thriller needs to have. But Antitrust isn't content to be obvious. No, it has to plant conspiracy seeds right down to the core of Milo's very being, with layer after layer of gunk slathered on. Either you'll shut all the nonsense out, chomp down on the popcorn and enjoy what's left of the flick or you'll buy in whole hog and start composing dissmail, in the back of your head, to send to Cranky as soon as you get back to your box.

We don't fault Howard Franklin's script for going overboard. We clicked out when director Peter Howitt (whose last film was the just as clever and way more subtle Sliding Doors) went bananas with his editing instructions, with sound and picture cuts way out of line with what had come before. We're smart enough to understand Howitt's intentions. We also know enough, and think you know enough, that we had already gotten the connection before the director felt it had to be hammered in with his equivalent of a ballpeen hammer. It's too bad 'cuz it overshadows Ryan Phillippe's performance. We hadn't thought much of Phillippe's other work and were just beginning to think "well, look at that, acting chops!" when the film goes haywire.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Antitrust, he would have paid . . .


Honestly? Antitrust will work fine as a rental for those of us outside of prime dating range. There's nothing here that is so teen oriented that we felt our age as we sat down to see the movie and those still in college will have an easier time settling in. We are far beyond the conspiracy overkill that lies beneath the surface of this flick.

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