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The Merchant Of Venice

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From the opening scene of The Merchant of Venice, when Antonio (Jeremy Irons) hocks a gob of spit in the face of Al Pacino’s Shylock, you know that Michael Radford’s rendition of Shakespeare’s most problematic play won’t be a tea party. And it isn’t, as long as those two towering actors are on screen. Irons brings out the ambiguous sexuality of the title character and Pacino plays the infamous money-lender as a blunt, unstoppable instrument of vengeance. The rest of the cast, including Joseph Fiennes and Lynn Collins as the limpid lovers, can’t help but work in the shadows (especially since Radford whacked away whole chunks of their scenes). EXTRAS An above-average making-of doc features Pacino pithily discussing his role (but come on, Al, does Shylock really have ”road rage”?). The pound of flesh is exacted on a commentary in which actress Collins sucks up to director Radford like a college girl on the first day of class, extolling his long takes and actually using the word ”kudos.” Didn’t somebody tell her she already got the part?

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