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Rental Unit: "The Merchant of Venice"

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Shylock is also beset by one of the play's love stories. His daughter has run off with a Christian. Worse than that, she has run off with his ducats, and though both misdeeds sting, the play makes it clear which is the greater offense. The other love story, between Portia (Lynn Collins) and Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), intended as comedy, is instead unintentionally comic, not least because Shakespeare's conceit (choosing between metals) was eventually and perhaps more famously borrowed in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

But back to Shylock. Pacino is always a powerful presence, but his roles are beginning to make him seem set to one volume. Even when he is dressed up in graying hair and stooped in form, there is still the clear ring of a certain blind ex-Marine during any courtlike appearance. "Hoo-wah!" you expect the Jew to yell when given his bond. But then, his jubilation will not last.

One gets the clear impression that in Shakespeare's day, the audience was supposed to side with the Christians. Several centuries later, that's not so easily done. But with sympathies going the other way, the ending is rather unsatisfying, if not confusing. There are scant few instances where one would suggest updating classic literature, but maybe this slightly embarrassing tale is one of them. The film is, however, worth watching these days for the gracefully delivered "quality of mercy" soliloquy alone. — Wayne Melton

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