The Merchant of Venice


Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 35
  2. Negative: 2 out of 35

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Critic Reviews

  1. An exceptional example of Shakespeare on film.
  2. A lean, stripped-down and unapologetically cinematic take on Shakespeare's work, an adaptation designed at each turn to diminish the mechanics of the comedy and to explore the depths of the pathos.
  3. Radford has made a gripping, highly cinematic adaptation of a gorgeous work of theater.
  4. Collins and Pacino plumb the depths of acting, of Shakespeare, of the difference between law and justice.
  5. Pacino shows you what is only subliminally in the text: that Shylock's heart of stone is really a wall of wounded pride.
  6. Pacino gives a keenly measured performance, leading an excellent British cast through their paces in a richly colorful production that should please selective audiences and adds to the list of major film adaptations of Shakespeare's work.
  7. What Radford above all accomplishes in his filming of The Merchant of Venice is to suggest that, in essence, it is that most modern of entertainments: a dark - indeed, very dark - comedy.
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Pacino seems to recall, from his early Michael Corleone days, the power of whispered menace.
  9. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    This Merchant of Venice comes roaring to life--when it stops, in effect, apologizing for its terrible anti-Semitic worldview and just gives itself over to some of the most furious courtroom drama ever written.
  10. To watch this movie is to not only appreciate the majesty of Shakespeare's poetics but to engage in a profound, subtextual dialogue with bigotry.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Given the story's focus on religion and the intolerance that still rages in today's world, The Merchant of Venice remains deeply meaningful.
  12. 75
    The film itself occasionally plods, but Pacino, tackling a tough trap of a role, raises the bar in a mesmerizing acting triumph.
  13. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The reason to see The Merchant of Venice is Al Pacino.
  14. 75
    An important, timeless and sometimes troublesome classic has been filmed successfully and at long last.
  15. Pacino has done more Shakespeare than any other currently bankable movie star, he has a feel for the language and he lends a genuine grandeur to Shylock's big speech of self-defense.
  16. 75
    It has greatness in moments, and is denied greatness overall only because it is such a peculiar construction; watching it is like channel-surfing between a teen romance and a dark abysm of loss and grief.
  17. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Despite a series of disclaimers about the treatment of Jews in the 16th century, there's even less disguising onscreen than onstage that this is an uncomfortably anti-Semitic play and somewhat problematic for contempo audiences.
  18. Btter-than-average screen Shakespeare: intelligent without being showily clever, and motivated more by genuine fascination with the play's language and ideas than by a desire to cannibalize its author's cultural prestige.
  19. What Radford has retained of the original, he treats warmly and intelligently, and with a few welcome surprises in the acting. But he has produced a different work, moderately successful in itself, out of materials provided by Shakespeare.
  20. Overall this is an intelligent and thoughtful reading of the play, marred only by the implausibility of Portia.
  21. As cinematic storytelling, it works.
  22. 63
    Intriguing but ultimately unfulfilling.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 38 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 20
  2. Negative: 3 out of 20
  1. Jul 14, 2015
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. Exceptional interpretation, this version has made The Merchant of Venice one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Small details in between the dialogue make big differences to the dramatic relations between the characters. Especially the final scene. Pacino is a great Shylock as well - tragic, not comical. Full Review »
  2. Mar 8, 2014
    Not a big fan of Shakespeare stories or movies. I haven't read the book / script, so I wasn't aware of the story. The film manages to build upNot a big fan of Shakespeare stories or movies. I haven't read the book / script, so I wasn't aware of the story. The film manages to build up some tension, but it was overlong. Full Review »
  3. Jwv
    Jan 17, 2014
    This is a great popularized and verbally simplified version of Shakespeare for a wide audience with a top-notch cast. Especially Al Pacino'sThis is a great popularized and verbally simplified version of Shakespeare for a wide audience with a top-notch cast. Especially Al Pacino's performance is genuinely moving, in his assuming the role of an embittered and torn old man, with superior feel for emotional shift and outstanding voice-acting. Lynn Collins also convinces with a good performance. The soundtrack is likable, light and strangely enchanting, and the scenery is beautiful.

    The movie does a great job of complicating the character of Shylock, and makes the viewer question his role as a victim or a villain. In the end, nobody will feel unmoved by the truly excellent and genuinely poignant court scene.

    The courting prices are shallow stereotypes and constitute the only kind of (unintentional) humour this otherwise dry movie brings. I do not understand the choice of not giving the play-appropriated importance and weight in consequence to the casket-scenes. This is strange, since the movie is clearly a dramatized version of the play, and else there is not much that distinguishes Portia from a common harlot when every man can come make his suit without consequence. It saddens me to see the superficiality of these scenes, because Shakespeare did provide more complex and sympathetic characters in the original.
    Full Review »