174 user 110 critic

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

2:18 | Trailer
In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.


Michael Radford


William Shakespeare (play), Michael Radford (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Al Pacino ... Shylock
Jeremy Irons ... Antonio
Joseph Fiennes ... Bassanio
Lynn Collins ... Portia
Zuleikha Robinson ... Jessica
Kris Marshall ... Gratiano
Charlie Cox ... Lorenzo
Heather Goldenhersh ... Nerissa
Mackenzie Crook ... Launcelot Gobbo
John Sessions ... Salerio
Gregor Fisher ... Solanio
Ron Cook ... Old Gobbo
Allan Corduner ... Tubal
Anton Rodgers ... The Duke
David Harewood ... Prince of Morocco


Venice, 1596. Melancholy Antonio loves the youthful Bassanio, so when Bassanio asks for 3000 ducats, Antonio says yes before knowing it's to sue for the hand of Portia. His capital tied up in merchant ships at sea, Antonio must go to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender he reviles. Shylock wraps his grudge in kindness, offering a three-month loan at no interest, but if not repaid, Antonio will owe a pound of flesh. The Jew's daughter elopes with a Christian, whetting Shylock's hatred. While Bassanio's away wooing Portia, Antonio's ships founder, and Shylock demands his pound of flesh. With court assembled and a judgment due, Portia swings into action to save Bassanio's friend. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Peter O'Toole almost got a version up and running in 1970, but a change of management at MGM led to it being cancelled. This is actually the first non-TV, feature film adaptation of "The Merchant of Venice" that was produced for a theatrical release. See more »


When Gratiano announces his love of Nerissa, his wine is red, then white. See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: Intolerance of the Jews was a fact of 16th Century life even in Venice, the most powerful and liberal city state in Europe.
Title Card: By law the Jews were forced to live in the old walled foundry or 'Geto' area of the city. After sundown the gate was locked and guarded by Christians
Title Card: In the daytime any man leaving the ghetto had to wear a red hat to mark him as a Jew.
Man in Crowd: Usurer! Usurer!
Title Card: The Jews were forbidden to own property. So they practised usury, the lending of money at interest. This was ...
See more »


Her Gentle Spirit
Performed by David Juritz Violin, Leader
Violin(s): Gabrielle Lester, Ian Humphries, Jonathan Evans-Jones, Julian Leaper, Karin Leishman, Maya Magub (Maya Magub), Paul Willey
Cello: Josephine Knight, Nick Cooper, Richard Tunnicliffe, Sophie Harris
Published By Shylock Ltd. / EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
© 2004 Decca Music Group Limited
(p) Jocelyn Pook Ltd. /2004 Decca Music Group Limited
See more »

User Reviews

Heavy Editing Brings Mixed Results
4 January 2005 | by richlandwomanSee all my reviews

The original Merchant of Venice has serious weaknesses, particularly the casket and rings foolishness, which takes up far too much time.

But Radford makes these scenes much weaker than necessary. For example, he allows the suitors to overact laughably and also cuts their dialog in a way that limits their complexity -- especially with the Duke, who appears stuck-up but smart in the full text, merely stupidly foppish in the movie. In short, Radford wipes out any hope for either comedy or pathos -- both of which can be found in better productions.

In contrast to the cheesy heterosexuality, the clearly homosexual love of Antonio for Bassanio is quite moving, in large part because it's subtly played by an excellent Jeremy Irons. For that matter, Lynn Collins is much better at portraying Portia in drag than Portia the beautiful, expectant young maiden.

Meanwhile, the Shylock plot is compelling as always and benefits from an excellent performance by Pacino. However, a whole strand of Shylock's character has been more or less eliminated. In the full text, Shylock repeatedly makes it clear that he does *not* merely want revenge for mistreatment -- rather he wants to kill Antonio because Antonio is cutting into his business and bringing down interest rates by lending for free:

"I hate him for he is a Christian; but more for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice."

That's also why Shylock refuses Bassanio's offer of many times more than Antonio owes -- Shylock knows that it still won't equal what he can make in higher interest if Antonio is dead:

"I will have the heart of him, if he forfeit; for, were he out of Venice, I can make what merchandise I will."

To make Shylock more sympathetic, such cold-hearted calculation is excised almost entirely from this screen version.

Still, by making Shylock less an outright villain, the director arguably improves on the original -- Pacino can appear more intriguingly human, less like the Jewish Snidely Whiplash that Shakespeare frequently gives us.

In all, I felt that about two-thirds of this Merchant was excellent drama, and one third was tedious romantic "comedy."

13 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 174 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »


Official Sites:

MGM [UK] | Sony Pictures Classics


UK | Italy | Luxembourg | USA


English | Italian | Arabic

Release Date:

18 February 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice See more »

Filming Locations:

Thiene, Vicenza, Veneto, Italy See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$69,868, 2 January 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed