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MGM Studios DVD presents

Antitrust (2001)

"I know what you're doing, Milo. I just want to know that it's not affecting your work."- Gary Winston (Tim Robbins)

Stars: Ryan Phillippe, Claire Forlani
Other Stars: Rachael Leigh Cook, Tim Robbins
Director: Peter Hewitt

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and brief language
Run Time: 01:48m:12s
Release Date: 2001-05-08
Genre: techno thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-A-B+ B


DVD Review

The 1995 hit Hackers sought to open up the public's eyes to the underground world of computer geniuses, teenagers who could cripple a corporation with the click of the mouse and a stroke of the keyboard. Of course, the film became an instant cult classic to anyone who actually knew anything about computers, due to the highly stylized look and lingo the film attributed to the world of hacking. Did you know that when you break into a computer system, it involves whooshing around a pre-rendered 3-D environment? And while hackers calling themselves "ZeroCool" and "AcidBurn" and dressing up like Kabuki characters was good for a laugh, although I suspect this doesn't truly represent the hacker lifestyle.

Anyway, Antitrust certainly doesn't represent a realistic hacker world (the characters all seem to be affiliated with soap and sunlight), but it is more credible than its 1995 cousin. Milo Hoffman (Phillippe) is a computer programmer operating a company out of his garage. His work impresses some people, and he receives a call for Gary Winston (Robbins), the CEO of the powerful software company NURV, who is looking to recruit Milo for a new project. Milo takes the posh new post, and all seems well until NURV's competitors (mostly kids working independently in their homes) start showing up dead. All signs seem to point to NURV, and Milo becomes suspicious of his charismatic new boss.

Antitrust is fairly effective, and I quite enjoyed several of the plot's twists and turns. Surprisingly, it kept me guessing, and there are crosses and double crosses throughout. Though all the talk of quickie-millionaires and venture capital dates the film quite a bit. In today's market (when's stock is cheaper than a pack of gum), it seems ludicrous that anyone would fear the kind of start-up threat the murdered programmers represent, but if you are able to suspend your disbelief to accept Ryan Phillippe as both a nerd AND a genius, than you can do it here. There are quite a very tension filled scenes, mostly situated around a "Milo is doing something, will he finish in time?" premise, but it is all still very entertaining, if a bit cliché.

The acting is surprisingly good, considering the fairly one-dimensional characters. Tim Robbins has a blast with the CEO, who is nothing like Microsoft president Bill Gates (coughcoughdefamationcoughcough). He balances menace and charisma quite well. As for the rest of the cast, just look at the cover art! Those bee-stung lips. Those come-hither eyes. That feminine gaze. Yes, Ryan Phillippe is back, doing what he does best, projecting vague emotions which run the gamut from confused to mildly concerned, all in his odd little faux accent. Claire Forlani ekes out a few realistic emotions in her role as Milo's beaux, despite the fact that her best stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. Rachael Leigh Cook is as wide-eyed as usual. I think she is beautiful, but she has an unfortunate face for acting, since she always looks like a deer caught in headlights.

The best elements of the film are its technical merits. Oscar¬®-winning editor Zach Staenberg has helped to craft a cohesive, coherent narrative that is always perfectly paced. The director actually adds quite a bit to the rather cliché script with his dramatic shooting style. Most impressive is the production design, by Catherine Hardwicke. Her designs for the NURV campus and Winston's mansion are elegant and innovative.

For some reason, Antitrust made next to nothing in the theater. Perhaps it was bad timing with the market crash for tech stocks; perhaps it was the middling reviews. In any case, I found it to be a more or less compelling thriller, with several excellent scenes. Definitely worth a rental, or a purchase if you love corny thrillers (like me!).

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM may be a bit hit and miss with their catalogue titles, but they usually do good work with new releases, and Antitrust surely looks very nice. This is a sharp looking transfer, with excellent fine detail. Some scenes are full of vibrant colors (the NURV building), and they are well saturated and vibrant. The black level is good, as is color contrast. I noticed no obvious edge-enhancement or digital artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: While this audio track doesn't scream "demo material," the 5.1 mix is very effective and atmospheric. The surrounds are used consistently to heighten tension and add atmosphere. The score utilizes the entire soundstage and is quite aggressive at times, but never overpowering. Especially effective is the surround uses during several tense chase scenes. This is a subtle mix that suits the film well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Peter Howitt, editor Zach Staenberg
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. music video for Everclear's When It All Goes Wrong Again
Extras Review: MGM has done some nice work with their recent new releases; almost every one has been a special edition. Antitrust features a number of value-added features, a bit more in-depth than the usual promotional fare. The 20-minute Antitrust: Cracking the Code delves a bit deeper than the usual EPK, but it is still mostly surface discussion of the plot, characters, and themes, with a smattering of material on the production design and sets. It's interesting, but make sure not to watch it until after you've seen the film, unless you want everything given away.

The commentary track with the editor and the director is a tough sell. It is packed with information, and the two talk very consistently, but they focus more on the characters than the production, resulting in a rather dry track overall. I suppose this is worth a listen for fans of the film, but overall, nothing of real import is communicated. Although it was interesting to hear the director expound on all the themes and levels he sees in the script (oooh, a thriller with social commentary!). The two also speak over seven deleted scenes. All of them are interesting, and could easily have been left in the film - they focus on the story's love triangle, which might seem unnecessary in such a film, but this one really added some nice character moments. An interesting alternate opening/ending is also provided.

Finally, there is a trailer and a music video from the band Everclear. Hey, remember when Everclear used to have indie-cred? Back before they guest-starred in the hit Loser and sang for The Gap? Nah, me neither.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

Antitrust is fairly standard thriller fare, but is it still vary watchable, thanks to decent dialogue, an attractive young cast, and the stylish production design. Sure, the outcome is never in question (especially if you made the mistake of watching the trailer first), but getting there is a lot of fun. Recommended for fans of corny thrillers like Hackers, which Antitrust can't quite top. But at least this film doesn't feature "realistic" computers with fully interactive, 3-D hard drives. Of course, then the computer nerds have nothing to titter at. Tough choice!

Joel Cunningham 2001-05-02