Computer Movies: Antitrust (2001)

After a lengthy discussion with some friends on Facebook about the merits of Hackers as opposed to The Net and other computer movies, my buddy from way back in the 5th grade Geof suggested I check out Antitrust. I immediately added it to the top-ish of my queue, but didn’t get around to watching it until the other day. Glad I did as it’s a fun mix of crazy computer stuff and fairly decent dramatic action. Kinda.

Here’s the deal: Ryan Phillippe’s a genius computer kid who gets hired by Tim Robbins’ giant Microsoft-like company, but one of his fellow genius computer programmers stays home to work out of his garage in his own start up company. Phillippe’s got a girlfriend in Claire Forlani who moves there with him. He also meets Rachel Lee Cook, a fellow programmer, and Tyler Labine (the bigger guy from Reaper and now Sons of Tucson) who seems to just show people around. As the movie progresses, Phillippe realizes this might be the most perfect job in the world as he starts suspecting Robbins and company of shady practices as he randomly pops up with pieces of code for Phillippe to use in his program.

Welcome to SPOILER country, taste the flavor! Turns out, of course, that things are WAY more devious. Robbins has goons like Labine kill programmers to steal their code, including Phillippe’s friend who staid home. Once he connects the dots, Phillippe hatches a plan with Cook to bring Robbins and company down. He chooses her because he discovers that Forlani is actually working for Robbins. Now that I think about it, this movie reminds me a lot of The Skulls with tons of betrayal and more twists and turns than you can easily keep track of.

Unlike some of the other Computer Movies, I can’t find any fault with the actual computer stuff in this movie, again, not that I’m any kind of expert, but it all seemed to play true. Plus, I watched a special feature on the DVD which had a woman talking about how she put the code together. I didn’t understand it, but no big deal there. What made me laugh is the idea that not only does Robbins’ company steal code from and spy on seemingly everyone with some talent, but also goes so far as to murder people and cover everything up. PLUS, he set Forlani up as a mole with Phillippe well in advance. We’re getting into spy/supervillain territory here. Now, I get that this came out around Bill Gates’ Microsoft antitrust case and there has always been corporate paranoia, but I just kept thinking of guys like Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs and just laughing at the thought of them trying to kill someone. My outsiders view of the computer industry is that there are definitely some shady business practices, but I just can’t see it getting into murder territory. Just doesn’t seem to hold water for that particular industry.

Ah well, all in all, this was a good suggestion, thanks Geof! Oh, I also wanted to note how funny the sets are, especially in Robbins’ company. There are huge bouncy balls everywhere, tables made out of giant puzzle pieces and a kid’s area made completely out of Legos. No idea if that’s how things were back in the heyday of late 90s/early 00s computer companies, but it made me laugh. Even Grandma’s Boy didn’t go that far.

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