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Hard Eight (1996)
"Sydney" (original title)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  28 February 1997 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 21,302 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 128 user | 56 critic | 14 from Metacritic.com

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 ... See full summary »

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Title: Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight (1996) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
John
...
...
Jimmy
...
Hostage
...
Young Craps Player (as Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
Nathanael Cooper ...
Restroom Attendant
Wynn White ...
Waitress
Robert Ridgely ...
Keno Bar Manager
Kathleen Campbell ...
Keno Girl
Michael J. Rowe ...
Pit Boss
Peter D'Allesandro ...
Bartender
Steve Blane ...
Stickman
Xaleese ...
Cocktail Waitress
...
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 | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

money | waitress | casino | hooker | gambler | See more »

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:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hard Eight  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$69,486 (USA) (28 February 1997)

Gross:

$142,356 (USA) (7 March 1997)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The idea for Samuel L. Jackson's character to wear black leather, including driving gloves, so he'd even sound ominous before he opened his mouth, came from costume designer Mark Bridges. See more »

Goofs

When John and Clementine leave the motel for their honeymoon in Niagara Falls they are driving a Chrysler product, possibly a Plymouth Gran Fury. The Chrysler "star" hood ornament is clearly visible as they leave. When they are driving across the desert, a view out the windshield shows a blue-and-white Buick Regal hood ornament. The character Sydney is driving a silver/blue Buick Regal. See more »

Quotes

Sydney: I have a friend in Los Angeles. Someone... maybe someone who can help. I can make a call for you, tell him you're a friend, so on and so forth, and we can work this thing out here. I think if you need help paying for your mother's funeral, we can work it out. I want you to see that my reasons for doing this are not selfish, only this: I'd hope that you would do the same for me.
John Finnegan: I would. Thank you.
Sydney: [shakes John's hand] It's always good to meet a new friend. I'll see you later.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Christmastime
Music by Jon Brion and Michael Penn
Performed by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
See more »

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User Reviews

A low key but effective film that is effortlessly carried by great performances
13 March 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Sydney is an old gambler who shows kindness to a man he meets outside a diner. He helps out John by lending him £50 and then teaching him enough about gambling to make his way. Two years later finds John loyally sticking with John and adoring him. However, their relationship is put under pressure when John hooks up with Clementine, a cocktail waitress who also turns tricks and Jimmy, a low life with no respect for Sydney.

Although it was pretty badly treated in the UK and mostly ignored and overlooked, the success of Anderson's films since has given many a reason to look back on Hard Eight (the much better but less meaningful title given it for the UK release) and `discover' it. It certainly is an impressive film and it is difficult to see why it received neither financial or critic success when it was released. The plot is deceptive - starting as a character piece, changing violently with a series of twists and then reverting back to the character piece we started with.

The film is totally driven by it's characters and they are very well written to the point that we care about them even before we really know all about them. The title `Sydney' is more meaningful simply because the film is pretty much all about Sydney himself. He is a kind man and we wonder why but are gradually won over his gentle nature. This makes the second half of the film more thrilling simply because we think we know Sydney but then he has to do things we think are not in him. Anderson directs with a remarkable assurance; he has style and a real sense of framing. He mixes close ups with wider shots using the fluorescent lighting of the gambling joints to good effect - his direction is as good here as it was in his other, more acclaimed films.

The main thing that makes this film so good though, is the cast. Hall is excellent; I cannot stress how good he is here - his character is well written but it is Hall that makes it work so well with a performance that is subtle and controlled. Reilly is a great character actor and he does the same here with a hangdog expression and put upon attitude. Paltrow is very good for someone whom people seem to have forgotten can actually act. Her Clementine is more complex that first appears. However despite her good work, I think that Paltrow's limited screen time actually helps the film - she is not the focus here. Jackson is his usual cool self and turns in a memorable performance while Anderson even has a part for Hoffman.

I can imagine some people will not like this film: it is talky for long sections and it ends with questions to be answered - this may frustrate some people but for me I felt it allowed me to think for myself and use what I had learnt about Sydney. This is a surprisingly mature film from such a young director and one that you owe it to yourself to undercover in retrospect.


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