In 2004 movie goers had the opportunity to see a quality filmed version of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The Sony Pictures Classics first American release of Merchant of Venice was at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado on September 3, 2004. Al Pacino stands out from the rest of the cast in both reputation and skill. Another bragging point is that the film earned acclaim for costumes.
Unfortunately, the $30 million cost of filming The Merchant of Venice was not matched by the box office receipts of just over $21 million. The film is rated R due to adult situations which in all likelihood never even occurred to Shakespeare. Yet the average adult will enjoy this version too.
Shylock (Al Pacino)is a Jewish moneylender in a time when this was common place since Jews of sixteenth century Venice could not own property. They became lenders. Bassanio is indebted to this man for a large sum. Bassanio is in love with Portia who is a rich heiress and he is the best friend of Antonio who is a prosperous merchant.
The moneylender, Shylock, demands his pound of flesh, literally, for the bad debt even though Bassanio has other means to pay. He has other investments or accepts a loan from his friend. Shylock makes an issue of things more because he can do so than because he needs to do so. The plot allows for the usual Shakespearean turns as Antonio loses his money and is himself in jeopardy.
Then at a hearing on the matter Shylock is informed that he is actually in the wrong and his life is in harm's way. He is by then seen as largely evil although something of a victim earlier in life. So no one is upset that he is coerced into leaving his money in his will to Lorenzo and Jessica, Shylock's daughter and her intended. Much of this is a result of manipulation by a law clerk who is really Portia in disguise.