The Merchant of Venice Michael Radford

Al Pacino's take on Shylock is the main selling point here, and Pacino's performance in one of Shakespeare's toughest roles is admittedly riveting. Equally impressive is Jeremy Irons's finely-nuanced turn as Antonio. However, two great performances don't necessarily make a great film, and Michael Radford's decision to focus our attention on Shylock at the expense of everything else in the play makes this a very lopsided and often unconvincing Merchant of Venice. The other three plotlines (the lottery of the caskets, the flight of Jessica and the fortunes of the Gobbos) are so heavily cut and under-directed that they regularly verge on incoherence, and in revamping Shakespeare's dark comedy as The Tragedy of Shylock, they often seem utterly out of place. Also, at a time when so many exciting film adaptations of Shakespeare's work are being made, Radford's vision seems notably unadventurous. All the same, this is a solid and beautifully shot production of a challenging play carried by a few commanding performances. The extras include a quite good documentary presenting intelligent interviews with the cast, a weblink to a teacher's guide and a more-or-less unbearable commentary featuring ditzy prima donna Lynn Collins (Portia) interrupting Radford any time he tries to say anything even moderately interesting. (Sony/Columbia)