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Hard Eight (1996)

Sydney (original title)
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Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.
2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Philip Baker Hall ... Sydney
John C. Reilly ... John
Gwyneth Paltrow ... Clementine
Samuel L. Jackson ... Jimmy
F. William Parker ... Hostage
Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Young Craps Player (as Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
Nathanael Cooper Nathanael Cooper ... Restroom Attendant
Wynn White Wynn White ... Waitress
Robert Ridgely ... Keno Bar Manager
Kathleen Campbell Kathleen Campbell ... Keno Girl
Michael J. Rowe Michael J. Rowe ... Pit Boss
Peter D'Allesandro Peter D'Allesandro ... Bartender
Steve Blane Steve Blane ... Stickman
Xaleese Xaleese ... Cocktail Waitress
Melora Walters ... Jimmy's Girl
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Storyline

John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing much money. Under Sydney's fatherly tutelage, John becomes a successful small-time professional gambler, and all is well, until he falls for Clementine, a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

If you stay in the game long enough, you'll see everything, win everything, and lose everything. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language, some violence and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 February 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hard Eight See more »

Filming Locations:

Sparks, Nevada, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$69,486, 2 March 1997, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$222,559
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Thomas Anderson wanted to shoot the film in the anamorphic format, and even mentioned this in the screenplay. Budget constraints ruled out renting anamorphic lenses, so instead, the film was shot with cheaper spherical lenses in Super 35, which Anderson hated. All of his subsequent films have been shot in anamorphic, until The Master (2012). See more »

Goofs

In the motel room, Sydney leans over to see if the hostage is breathing, and places his right hand on the bed headboard, after he has already wiped the room for fingerprints. See more »

Quotes

Sydney: [to Jimmy] I have the money to give you right now, in this moment. I will give you all that I have. Maybe before you were gonna kill me. Maybe. I don't know. I know John, and I love him like he was my own child. But I can tell you this: I don't want to die. I killed his father. I can tell you what it was. This is not an excuse. I'm not begging for clemency. All that matters, I do not wish to sacrifice my life for John's well-being. But I will sacrifice this money for mine because you have asked ...
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Connections

References Saboteur (1942) See more »

Soundtracks

Christmas Medley
(The First Noel / O Little Town of Bethlehem / Silent Night)
Written by traditional / Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner / Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr
Performed by Frankie Avalon
Courtesy of Chancellor Records, Inc.
By Arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Very intimate and compelling - a splendid debut for PT Anderson
20 June 2007 | by MaxBorg89See all my reviews

Though he is best known for two ambitious ensemble pieces such as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson was first noticed thanks to a low-key, unpretentious character study, a gem called Sydney.

The film takes its title from the main character, a lonely elder man played by Philip Baker Hall. At a diner he runs into John (John C. Reilly), a poor fella who has just lost all his money. Sydney buys him coffee, and after a little chat he persuades him to come to Reno. Once there, they manage to get a free room and under Sydney's tutelage John quickly becomes a successful gambler. All's well until he falls in love with Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a waitress and part-time prostitute, and trouble ensues with a gangster named Jimmy, meaning Sydney will have to come up with something extreme to save his protégé.

For a first-time director Anderson shows great skills and confidence: even though he doesn't do much but follow four characters, he frames each shot to perfection and proves he is every bit as good as Scorsese at staging tracking shots (a thing he perfected on his next two features). But style doesn't really matter here: the important thing is that the audience cares for the story, and this essentially happens courtesy of sublime dialogue and great acting.

Anderson fought really hard to keep the movie's original title (and partially failed, which is why the film is known as Hard Eight in some countries), and the reason is clear from the beginning: the picture rests entirely on Hall's shoulders, and he carries it admirably. His performance is nuanced and genuine, and he manages to ensnare the viewer even when we are not sure what his motives are (and once they are revealed, it is not that important). Reilly is equally good, in a turn that opened his way to becoming one of the most reliable character actors in Hollywood, and the same intensity emerges from Paltrow and Jackson, the latter in particular adding extra dramatic flesh to what could have been a rehash of his more famous roles (Pulp Fiction etc.). Even Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has a brief but memorable role as a cocky gambler, gets his opportunity to shine, showing beyond any doubt that Anderson has a great eye for casting. He also knows how to write: the dialogue flows freely and seamlessly between the players, spawning some of the most affecting, realistic conversations ever heard in a movie, although the director can't resist the temptation to insert a couple of in-jokes as well (in one scene, Hall mentions two characters he wound up playing in Boogie Nights and Magnolia).

Overall, a very good film, and a must-see for PT Anderson fans: like many other directors who rose to fame in the '90s (Tarantino, Rodriguez, Bryan Singer) he proved right from the start what he was capable of, and has never disappointed the audience since that.


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