Antitrust is a strange little movie. At some points, it tries to be a suspense thriller, and at others, a bleak warning about the prying eyes of 'big brother' or a scathing look at Microsoft. Whatever it is, it is familiar, which is a death knell for movies like this. It is hard for a movie to be a suspense thriller when the audience knows what is going to happen. The only difference here is that it is firmly entrenched in the modern world of computers. However, when Milo Hoffman is frantically typing at a computer, trying in vain to finish while the camera cuts to somebody closing in, it's not secret whether or not Hoffman will finish in time. Also, with young graduates eager to make millions off start-ups and preparing to visit venture capitalists for easy money, it is a year or two too late.

Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe, The Way of the Gun, Playing by Heart) is a new Stanford grad, one of the best young programmers in the world. And looking for a job. What the heck? If he were as good as the movie says, wouldn't he already have a job? His friend Teddy wants Hoffman to join in on a start-up, but Hoffman is intrigued with Microsoft, er, NURV, a huge computer company located in Seattle, er, Portland, whose owner Bill Gates, er, Gary Winston, is under investigation for antitrust violations. Yes, Winston (Tim Robbins, Arlington Road, Nothing to Lose) is a dead ringer for Gates. For anybody who saw Robbins in Arlington Road, this is pretty much the same. It's less Robbins playing a role and more him doing an impression of Gates. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the judge who ruled over the Microsoft case, recently described Gates as having "a Napoleonic concept of himself" and "an arrogance that derives from power." Robbins plays the role well, but it is distracting watching him. Okay, he looks like a nerd, has the bad haircut, and chips fall from his mouth when he eats them. This only makes it less believable when he turns evil. Instead of menacing, he looks silly.

See, something is going on at NURV. Hoffman is working on SYNAPSE, a huge project with a looming due date (without his help it will be vaporware), but he feels nervous. Too many coincidences keep happening. Winston keeps giving him programs without telling Hoffman where they came from. Hoffman is also internally conflicted, because mere months ago he was railing against companies like NURV. His girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani, Boys and Girls, Mystery Men) thinks his imagination is going into overdrive. Of course he's right. And why is Forlani again playing a role that should go to someone nearly a decade younger? He goes looking for answers within NURV, so people start coming after him. His only ally there is Lisa (Rachael Leigh Cook, Get Carter, She's All That), a hot enigmatic programmer (i.e. an oxymoron).

Director Peter Howiit (Sliding Doors, In the Name of the Father) does a decent job of generating moderate levels of suspense, but again, it is nothing new. People can guess the plot twists as they happen (or more likely before) and as things become increasingly preposterous. People switch allegiances at just the right times, and Hoffman always manages to stay one step ahead. Antitrust is not a bad movie, just one that was made before. Many times. Screenwriter Howard Franklin (Someone to Walk Over Me, The Man Who Knew Too Little) did not seem to spend much time thinking up anything too original. He either detests Microsoft, or is a huge fan of Sun or Netscape. Antitrust becomes increasingly preachy about knowledge and freedom that eventually leads to an unsatisfying and uncharacteristically sappy ending.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief language.

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