Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Save up to 70%
Empire
Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Al Pacino
Joseph Fiennes
Jeremy Irons
Kris Marshall
Zuleikha Robinson
Lynn Collins.
Directors
Michael Radford.
Screenwriters
Michael Radford.
Running Time
138 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
A Fuller Life
3 Star Empire Rating
Futuro Beach
4 Star Empire Rating
Tokyo Tribe
2 Star Empire Rating
Honeytrap
2 Star Empire Rating
Pheonix
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Still Alice
5 Star Empire Rating
Les Miserables
5 Star Empire Rating
Duke Of Burgundy, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Whiplash
5 Star Empire Rating
Long Good Friday, The
5 Star Empire Rating

The Merchant of Venice
Pacino is out for his pound of flesh


submit to reddit


Plot
In order to woo the lovely Portia, penniless Venetian gent Bassanio turns to his friend, successful merchant Antonio , to stump up a dowry. To insure the deal, they turn to Jewish lender Shylock, who, stung by years of abuse, demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh as collateral...


Review
Shakespeare, scholarly souls are prone to exclaim, is a writer for all seasons. Despite their period settings, his plays roil with subtexts and are as applicable today as they were at the lantern-lit Globe. So this seething morality tale of racial prejudice and greed has been adapted by Michael Radford to mirror the vices and cruelties of current times. As Radford's camera prowls the backstreets of Venice, we're swiftly informed how the Jews are coldly repressed, allowed only to deal in money and locked away in the 'geto' (ghetto) after dark. Shylock, who is visibly shunned and spat upon, is understandably a bitter man.

The play has always teetered between being a study of anti-Semitism and actually feeling anti-Semitic - a true product of its times - and Radford penetrates the dilemma with skill, delivering an incisive adaptation in the succulent, woody shades of Renaissance art and depicting a painted city where the rot has set in. Yet his film never sings. While he gauges the emotional turmoil intelligently, he treats the lighter, softer notes of the story -the familiar Shakespearean tableau of dainty misunderstandings, swooning romance and inevitable cross-dressing - as throwaway mechanics, impatiently awaiting the return of his leading man.

Pacino's Shylock, as you might expect, is the best reason to step inside. The character's always been a tough assignment, often reduced to a proto-Jackie Gleason in a smock, but Pacino revels in the money-lender's contradictions, playing him fierce and sympathetic, both victim and molester. It's a complex performance made effortless, as if those long-winded lines were born on his lips, not rehearsed from a well-thumbed Arden. While De Niro languishes in self-parody, Pacino remains as edgy and indelible a presence as he was as a young firebrand.

It's a shame that the more youthful cast members appear stiff and obvious by comparison. Fiennes, Collins and a well-meant Kris Marshall look as if they're bogged down with A-Level revision, leaving only Irons to hold any kind of candle to the main event.


Verdict
It veers from real conviction to panto, but Radford is clearly committed to the play's relevance, while Pacino, the Shakespeare addict, is a joy to watch.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Merchant of Venice
Empire Star Rating

Not one to ignore...

Pacino's performance is agreeably what makes this, one of Shakespeare's finest plays, something quite special. He gives the complex character the attention deserved with both menace and great sympathy whilst each line delivered perfectly. Filmed in occasionally stunning and sumptuous settings, The Merchant of Venice is not to be considered another costume drama. If any faults would be that perhaps some of the actors do not give the same believability, but there efforts are commendable. Althoug... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 02:07, 01 June 2012 | Report This Post


Flawed but wonderful

I might have a bias here, being both a Shakespeare addict myself and an Al Pacino addict to boot, but I know a boring Shakespeare performance when I see one - this film is very entertaining so long as you pay attention to what is actually being said. This is obviously where Shakespeare has lost a lot of modern fans - many people these days just don't (or won't) take the time to listen and understand the nuances. The ADHD generation are getting older and probably won't be able to understand (let ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MysteriousMartian at 19:25, 03 August 2009 | Report This Post


Flawed but wonderful

OK, I'll admit I might have a bit of a bias here, being both a Shakespeare addict myself and an Al Pacino addict to boot, but I know a boring Shakespeare performance when I see one and unlike the reviewer before me I did not find this film dull for a moment. It's very entertaining as long as you pay attention to what is being said and are willing to give it your full attention over an admittedly rather too long 130 minutes. But this is obviously where Shakespeare has sadly lost many potential m... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MysteriousMartian at 19:24, 03 August 2009 | Report This Post


Even though Shakespeare isn't my favourite thing in the world, I watched the film with an open mind and it isn't hard to get bored. Even with a classic array of actors the dialogue seems clunky it just goes to prove that Shakespeare doesn't fo silver screen. The film is made up for by a great performance from Pacino ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 17:38, 21 January 2008 | Report This Post


Even though Shakespeare isn't my favourite thing in the world, I watched the film with an open mind and it isn't hard to get bored. Even with a classic array of actors the dialogue seems clunky it just goes to prove that Shakespeare doesn't fo silver screen. The film is made up for by a great performance from Pacino ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 17:38, 21 January 2008 | Report This Post



CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
40 Of The Unlikeliest Movie Character Posters
Would you put these one-sheets on your wall?

Who Is The Vision, Anyway?
An introduction to Avengers: Age Of Ultron's newest addition

Jenny Agutter: Role by Role
From Tin to Captain America to The Railway Children

80 Of The Best Movie Star Adverts
From Sly Stallone selling bread to Hugh Jackman dancing for iced tea

Matthew Weiner Reveals 7 Mad Men Secrets
The showrunner on The Beatles and that lawnmower

Empire's Avengers: Age Of Ultron Review
Our verdict on what could be the biggest film of the year...

The 15 Most Controversial Alternate Endings
How some of your favourite films could have finished...

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Subscribe now and save up to 70%

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe now and save up to 70%
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)