AntiTrust

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I saw two movies on Jan. 10, and both had characters named Teddy. The first Teddy was in a good movie called “Memento.” The second was in a mediocre movie called “AntiTrust.” It is the latter, unfortunately, that we have to talk about now.

It’s about a sexy young computer geek named Milo (Ryan Phillippe) who, with his buddy Teddy (Yee Jee Tso), is on the verge of developing the technology to send instant video, audio or text messaging to any electronic device in the world, from computers to TVs to Palm Pilots.

At the same time, though, the Portland-based computer monopoly NURV is about to figure out the same thing — only instead of giving it away, they’re going to sell it and further their chokehold on the computing world. The head of NURV is Gary Winston (Tim Robbins), who is NOT AT ALL exactly like Bill Gates, even down to the geeky glasses, bad haircut and pact with Satan.

Gary needs Milo and Teddy’s skills and succeeds in hiring away Milo and his live-in girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani). Teddy refuses to go on a matter of principle and stays in Silicon Valley to work out the software himself.

The NURV headquarters are a large, modern facility with all the amenities, including a hot female coworker named Lisa (Rachael Leigh Cook), who is pretty indifferent toward everything but seems to have a slight interest in Milo.

Since we know this is a movie about an evil software giant, and since Teddy is a minority, we can guess that he’ll be first to die. Which he is, except for an anonymous software developer who is in a questionable car accident, mentioned in one of the film’s few bits of foreshadowing that’s actually subtle. Teddy’s murder is obviously the work of Stan’s goons, but they make it look like a racially motivated hate crime. Milo figures out what’s going, though, and goes about trying to get to the bottom of it all, Scooby-Doo style.

“AntiTrust” is one of those movies that have characters who say, “Give me the disk!” in very angry tones. It’s full of plot twists, but none of them is different from what we’ve seen in other thrillers.

For that matter, even if you’d never seen a movie before in your life, you could still guess what was going to happen here because of Peter Howitt’s all-thumbs directing. In a restaurant scene, Milo absent-mindedly almost eats a sesame seed. Alice makes a huge deal out of it, then the subject quickly passes. They’re hoping we won’t catch on that later in the movie, sesame seeds are going to be important. Later, it’s not enough for Milo to find about 17 different proofs that Gary had Teddy killed; he has to find an actual videotape of the incident, too, accompanied by a shrieking musical soundtrack and zooming close-ups on Ryan Phillippe’s puffy-lipped face. All the clues are beaten into our heads that way, Howitt apparently assuming the audience is as slow on the uptake as the protagonist is. (You’ll be amazed at the people Milo is dumb enough to trust.) This movie wasn’t directed so much as it was man-handled.

There’s a very clumsy direct reference to Bill Gates, too, which is impossibly stupid. The Gary Winston character is obviously meant to represent him, what with his character owning all the computer software in the world. But how could he be so powerful if Bill Gates is a real person in the movie’s world, too? Bill Gates and Gary Winston can’t exist in the same universe, because the whole controversy around both of them is that they own too much. If they both exist, then obviously neither of them has anything close to a monopoly.

Lacking tension and originality, “AntiTrust” is just another trendy film about a trendy subject. Like most computer software, it will be obsolete before too long, and you’ll have forgotten you ever saw it even sooner than that.

C- (; PG-13, scattered profanity and some violence.)

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