Antitrust (review)

Code Warriors

Wanna know what I’m doing right now? I’m typing this. At a computer. I’m staring intently at the screen, and every once in a while my gaze drops down to the keyboard. If I knew you were watching, I’d have worn a pair of eyeglasses that would have been fashionable in the 50s and are now retro-cool, so you’d know for sure that I was a geek.

Isn’t it exciting? Isn’t it dramatic? Isn’t it sexy? Can you hear the keyboard clicking? Watch me caress the trackball. I’m typing… typing… typing… typing…

And now I’m typing some more. I am sooooo typing.
If this turns you on, then Antitrust will have you in ecstasy. There’s a lot of typing in Antitrust, and when there isn’t typing there’s a lot of running up and down stairs. It’s very soothing, in an altered- mental- state kind of way, like banging your head rhythmically against a wall.

Antitrust stars Ryan Phillippe (54, I Know What You Did Last Summer), a pouting, 12-year-old Botticelli boy who’s been dorked up with nerdy glasses, which I imagine filmmakers think add 50 points to an actor’s apparent IQ. (They don’t.) We’re supposed to buy that he’s a programming genius because of the glasses, I think, or maybe because his Milo is able to let himself be navigated through the mechanical plot without tripping over the furniture.

Or it could be because Tim Robbins (Mission to Mars, Bob Roberts), in a rather frightening Bill Gates ‘do, insists that Milo is Mozart-smart, a veritable code prodigy. Robbins plays Gary Winston (and not Bill Gates at all), rich-bastard owner of software company NURV, who needs Milo to help him finish his Big New Project. Something to do with satellites and putting advertising on anything that moves. We know Gary is up to no good because he’s rich and owns a computer company, and even though he is not Bill Gates in the least, he is “a fascist monopolist,” nice young independent garage-geek programmers tell us.

You could call this The Firmware. Poor innocent Milo is in trouble, but golly gee whiz, his resourcefulness will see him through. He’ll sneak into a lot of NURV computers, and you’ll witness every single damn minute of his hacking. Shiny CD-ROMs with sensitive material will make appearances. There’s an entire subplot revolving around security badges. And soft, cuddly, prepubescent Milo is there. It’s like Mission: Impossible Babies. And between Phillippe’s slack-jawed, deer-caught-in-headlights stare, the endless squinting of Claire Forlani (Into My Heart, Meet Joe Black) as Milo’s girlfriend, Alice, and Rachael Leigh Cook (All I Wanna Do) as a girl geek with a face so smooth and immobile that she looks rendered rather than alive, sitting through Antitrust without busting out laughing at the absurdity of it all is a mission even Ethan Hunt couldn’t accomplish.

And also, just so you know, this is a movie about the menace of Chinese food and dinner rolls.

A lot of the digital-convergence stuff here is laughably wrong — like The Net, the last truly silly movie about typing, Antitrust oversimplifies to the point that nothing really makes sense. But it’s convincing enough for everyone’s nervous mom to say, Look! Look! It’s Big Brother! It’s the end of privacy! You can’t trust computers. You can’t trust big business! To which I say: Wankers. (To the filmmakers, that is, not to everyone’s mom.) Hypocrites. How much computing power went into making Antitrust? Winston’s damn mansion is CGI, on the outside. How many conglomerates had their fingers in the Antitrust pot, from Hollywood studios owned by multinationals to every company that donated product in return for “promotional consideration”?

To wit: Antitrust also stars the world’s most obnoxious Pepsi vending machine, which looks to only make an annoying cameo early on but then ends up looming over the film’s climax. If that’s not enough to piss you off, then know this: the Pepsi machine gives the film’s best performance.

I’m typing, typing, typing. Hey, I’m still typing. Isn’t it too thrilling?

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