There are few actors with a more irritating screen presence than Claire Forlani. Unfortunately, Ryan Phillippe is one of them. Together they play a couple in AntiTrust, the second film from Peter Howitt, the director of Sliding Doors. Even if you enjoy the way Forlani emotes solely by squinting her eyes, and even if you think Ryan Phillippe is a James Dean-incarnate, perhaps you should sit this one out.
Rachel Leigh Cook is also on board, playing an advanced graphics programmer about as convincingly as Bugs Bunny plays a girl bunny. She looks about 17 and is just as vapid as she was in She’s All That. An overacting Tim Robbins is laughable in his role of evil software magnate.
The story concerns Milo Hoffman (Phillippe) who is recruited by a major software company called Nurv, run by billionaire megalomaniac Gary Winston (Robbins). No points if you can guess the inspiration. It almost immediately becomes clear to the audience, although not soon enough to the characters, that there are nefarious goings-on at Nurv. At one point, so that even the absolute stupidest member of the audience is not confused, a mysterious disc is handed to Phillippe’s character at the precise moment a news flash appears on the computer one cubicle over describing the death of another independent programmer.
As a matter of fact, there is an awful lot in Antitrust that seems to presume the audience is composed primarily of chimpanzees, or their mental equivalents. At one point, Phillippe puts on his serious face and uses a child’s computer in a day care to find out what Nurv is up to. Days later, the keyboard is dusted for fingerprints: dust the keys that programmers would use but kids wouldn’t, the security officer instructs, apparently unaware that children use every single key, often simultaneously. Later, Robbins and Phillippe are on different computers across town from each other, engaged in some kind of fast-fingered cyber-showdown.
As soon as Phillippe changes his strategy, Robbins, who cannot possibly be aware of Phillipe’s actions, looks up and says, "Wait! He knows I’m trying to stop him… I know how his mind works!" and adjusts accordingly. A chuckle went through the theatre and the film became that much more difficult to believe.
These are only a few absurdities in a film rife with them. They are peppered liberally amongst the many genre clichés.
The film’s agenda is clearly to promote the idea that information should be free. "Open-source!" is the rallying cry for rogue programmers–those who turn down huge offers from Nurv in the name of integrity and blind idealism. The film seems dated when it certainly aimed for topical, and the message of free information is undermined because the only argument in its favour is the fact that Robbins is a bastard.
It’s hard to imagine Antitrust doing anything but fizzling into bottom-shelf oblivion. Next to this techno-thriller, The Net and Hackers look like masterworks.