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Director Michael Radford (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Il postino) begins his adaptation of the Shakespeare play with a precise date and a brief documentary about anti-Semitism in 16th-century Venice; this doesn't have much to do with the playwright or his audience, but it provides a social context for what follows. Al Pacino avoids his usual bombast, giving his Shylock some shading, and Jeremy Irons is fine as Shylock's legal opponent, Antonio. Overall this is an intelligent and thoughtful reading of the play, marred only by the implausibility of Portia (Lynn Collins) fooling everyone at the trial with her gender disguise—which, of course, is transparent. With Joseph Fiennes. R, 127 min.

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