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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (2004)

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 124
Fresh: 89 | Rotten: 35

Critics Consensus: A respectable if uneven take on the Bard's The Merchant of Venice.

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 40
Fresh: 26 | Rotten: 14

Critics Consensus: A respectable if uneven take on the Bard's The Merchant of Venice.


Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 19,694


Movie Info

One of William Shakespeare's most powerful comedies has been given a bold cinematic adaptation in this film version of The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) is a young and vital member of the aristocratic classes in 16th century Italy; however, Bassanio's impulsive nature and lavish lifestyle have put him deeply in debt, and he will need at least the pretense of a fortune if he is to win the hand of the beautiful Portia (Lynn Collins). Bassanio turns to his close friend Antonio … More

R (for some nudity)
Drama , Art House & International , Comedy , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
William Shakespeare , Michael Radford
In Theaters:
May 10, 2005
Box Office:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site



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Critic Reviews for William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

All Critics (127) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (89) | Rotten (35) | DVD (20)

Pacino is at least dynamic, something harder to say about the women in the cast.

Full Review… | July 4, 2008
Top Critic

This is Al Pacino's show, and thankfully his Shylock is absorbing enough to carry the day.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It tilts so far in one direction that the comic elements seem to come from another, lesser film.

Full Review… | September 26, 2005
AV Club
Top Critic

Radford has rendered off the comedy to find the dramatic skeleton underneath. It is an approach that works stunningly well and is perhaps the only way the play can now be done.

Full Review… | March 10, 2005
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

A vivid, engrossing and defensible Shakespeare adaptation, a period piece that truly has a feel for a time long past -- and a place and attitude that are not.

Full Review… | February 25, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Pacino's stentorian delivery and punctuating hands are almost parodistic, as likely to draw a chuckle as to elicit empathy.

February 18, 2005
Detroit News
Top Critic

Pacino seeks his pound of flesh as a tragic outsider.

Full Review… | January 3, 2011

The text is wonderful, Radford's film has some fine performances from Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes, and he makes good use of Venice locations.

Full Review… | July 10, 2009
At the Movies (Australia)

It is really a pleasure to watch a masterful actor like Al Pacino wring every nuance out of the multifarious character of Shylock.

Full Review… | July 2, 2009

We see what an actor's actor Pacino can be: he's careful and watchful; respectful of other actors' timing; and says his lines perfectly, resisting all temptation to grandstand.

Full Review… | June 12, 2009
FILMINK (Australia)

A richly cinematic and robust rendition of Shakespeare's pre-political correctness play about the place of Jews in anti-Semitic 16th century Venice, Michael Radford's film takes delight in dramatics thus pulling us into the story.

Full Review… | June 5, 2009
Urban Cinefile

It has taken 5 years for Michael Radford's splendid interpretation of Shakespeare's play to come to Australia and it is worth the wait.

Full Review… | June 5, 2009
Urban Cinefile

It's the perfect cinematic vehicle -- or at least it would have been, if Radford's adaptation weren't so unremittingly cloddish.

Full Review… | July 4, 2008

Pacino shapes the role masterfully. He not only rises to the role's extremes of villainous melodrama, he fills them, rendering them both theatrical and believable

October 11, 2006
Christianity Today

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.

Full Review… | April 1, 2006
Empire Magazine

Manages to be a gripping and intriguing film.

Full Review… | September 30, 2005
Three Movie Buffs

The screenplay is lean and powerful and the direction deft.

Full Review… | August 7, 2005
Laramie Movie Scope

Finally, a filmatic spectacle worthy of the Scribe...

Full Review… | June 16, 2005
Blunt Review

With a running time of over two hours, I was ready to pay with a pound of my flesh for The Merchant of Venice to close shop already.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
Fantastica Daily

This rendition is hardly a freshman course.

Full Review… | April 21, 2005
Austin Chronicle

It remains an exercise of the head, not the heart.

Full Review… | April 10, 2005
Fresno Bee

Merchant of Venice is such a blatantly anti-Semitic work that a modernization seems imprudent.

April 8, 2005

Shakespeare needs no special effects or short-sighted novelties. Michael Radford's straightforward telling of The Merchant of Venice does the great play justice.

March 24, 2005
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

Audience Reviews for William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

This is a true and superb work of art. A fantastic piece of Shakespeare that anyone who is a fan, should see immediately. Director, Michael Radford crafts a beautiful and emotionally gripping masterpiece. A thrilling, engaging and breathtaking movie. It's tastefully romantic, sharply funny and sensationally entertaining. All the performances are in the film are incredible and deserve to be noticed by every audience. Al Pacino is brilliant, he gives one of the best performances of his career and one of the greatest performances given in a film adaptation of Shakespeare's work. Jeremy Irons is terrific. Joseph Fiennes is magnificent. Lynn Collins is a revelation.

Al S

Super Reviewer

Saw it last night on DVD and my husband and I are still talking about it this morning: is it anti-Semetic? Can you talk about uncomfortable things without appearing to endorse them? I thought it was beautifully done; Pacino was great as the self-righteous man who looks to the law for his comeuppance and instead finds himself hung by the law--a wonderful take on the fact that the ruling class will always have its way no matter how just your cause. Irons played a somewhat cowardly Antonio...was he like that in the play? Don't remember. Fiennes was singularly unappealing as Bassanio. Wassup with that, Portia? The unbelievable bit of Portia and her maid playing learned (though young and male) doctors from Padua was so hare-brained it was like something out of a Woody Allen film (specifically the part in Sleeper where Diane Keaton and Woody Allen are operating on the dictator's nose), but that's Shakespeare, not Radford, so can't fault the movie.

Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

I've got a bit of a love/hate thing going on when it comes to Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice is one of his that is in the middle for me though because I don't like the story and It comes under the 'Women pretending to be men' category which is firmly in the 'hate' section but then I really like the character of Shylock. I have always thought the story should end with the court scene and watching it on film only confirms this for me. So in some respects it's an honest adaptation. It looks good most of the time although I spotted a couple of unforgivable fake moustaches (and I don't mean on the women). The acting is also very hit and miss. Jeremy Irons is classically trained and he knows how to do Shakespeare justice, as does John Sessions and a few others who are well practised in the Bards work. Al Pacino's performance is very good to, although I wasn't so sure at first. His does end up being the only good reason to watch though as others stink up Shakespeare to high heaven. Kris Marshall makes it look like a pantomime but then look what happened to his much hyped future career. Joseph Fiennes was obviously cast as a safety net after the success of Shakespeare in Love but his performance was about as safe as an asbestos gum shield. I can only imagine Lynn Collins was cast because Gwyneth Paltrow was busy. Not my favourite Shakespeare play with an equally unlikable film -stating that persecution of the Jews was rife in the 1600's doesn't make me enjoy watching it or make me feel like I'm watching an important piece of history, so for those reasons I can't recommend.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

The world was raising. Thunderous canyons shot from below to meet my footsteps. Forests rose and died behind my back. Birds evolved and turned to dust before me. The sky was fire and shadow, and it covered the sun like a closing fist. My hair was a wild brown spirit dancing in the tempest. My consciousness tore apart into a thousand different pieces, each shot itself like a rocketship to a thousand stars. The moon crashed into the earth. Humanity begged to be. Civilization threw its hands up. Existence screamed.

My body is an auditorium. Memory is music fading, acoustics wearing.

Starlight is taxed. Clouds rule the universe. The bridges I walk end before they begin. All the islands and planets are sinking. An air just above me is a melancholy fragrance, and yellowness stains reality. The madness of my flesh is annihilated. I am just a tangle of wires choking a soul, stranded in a breath and under the dead mountains. The edge is deep. I let go, and fall back into a flock of glimmering crystal angels. I dream that they are building me beautiful white wings.

Neum Daddy

Super Reviewer

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