Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:50 - Released 1/12/01
As computer technology continues to become more and more a part of our everyday lives, we will see more fiction devoted to the so-called Pirates of Silicon Valley. Let's hope, however, that we see something better than AntiTrust, a computer geek thriller directed by Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors), which would be utterly undistinguished if not for the participation of Tim Robbins, the only semi-capable actor present. Unfortunately, in this film Robbins does some of his worst work to date. Ryan Phillippe's best work is about equal to Robbins's worst, and Claire Forlani, while looking great, is understandably conflicted about her very conflicted character.
Early in this film, the characters mention Bill Gates by name;
this is a clever tactic by writer Howard Franklin to avoid lawsuits,
since Robbins's character, Gary Winston, is so obviously patterned
after Gates, right down to the hair style, glasses, and ruthlessly
competitive business sense. Gary is the billionaire C.E.O. of
"NURV," a software company whose ridiculously contrived
acronym stands for "Never Underestimate Radical Vision."
Urp. As would be expected, Gary lives like a king (and eats like
a pig) in a huge mansion filled with all sorts of cool gizmos
like paintings that digitally change to suit the tastes of anyone
who enters the room. Like Gates, he is vilified by most working-class
computer technicians, constantly fending off charges of "anti-competitive"
strategies and being portrayed as Satan on various websites.
Meanwhile, in garages all over the country, young braniacs
like Milo Hoffmann (Phillippe) and his friends work hard to unseat
the software giant by producing some revolutionary new program
or operating system, so that they can be the next ones
to be hated by their colleagues. However, when Gary calls Milo
on the phone personally and asks him to join his team, Milo finds
it difficult to refuse. After all, Gary's company is on the cutting
edge of technology, with the best people and the money to fund
any kind of clever ideas. And they probably have an unlimited
supply of Rubik's cubes up there. So he leaves his fledgling company
to join the NURV team, but soon a suspicious murder has him poking
around in the NURV complex where he uncovers evidence that Gary
might really be Satan. Exactly like Bill Gates. Kidding.
Early in this film, Robbins's impersonation of Gates is cute,
but as time goes on he approaches the kind of over-the-top stupidity
he displayed in the last twenty minutes of Arlington
Road. Phillippe, perhaps intentionally, generates no on-screen
chemistry with anyone, including his girlfriend (Forlani), his
new NURVy girlfriend (Rachael Leigh Cook, She's
All That), or Gary himself. Franklin's script is packed
full of ridiculous melodrama and cartooney characterizations,
and Howitt's direction seems to revel in it. Milo makes mental
leaps that would be inhuman even for a computer genius, and there
are scenes where we are watching a computer screen for what seems
like an eternity, seeing him uncover ever more damning evidence
against Gary, as if Franklin is saying, "Do you get it? He's
the bad guy! Do you understand yet?" Moreover, there are
laughably non-specific scenes where people look at a screen full
of code and say, "isn't that great? Wow, that's some great
code!" without explaining to us what's so interesting.
Computers are as much a part of our lives as food and water these days, but the subject doesn't translate well to the silver screen, where people are supposed to actually have personalities. Or maybe it's just Franklin, Howitt, and Phillippe who lack that component. *½
See Current Reviews | See FilmQuips Archive