7.3/10
28,373
138 user 60 critic

Hard Eight (1996)

Sydney (original title)
Trailer
1:43 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.
2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Boogie Nights (1997)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

The story of a young man's adventures in the Californian pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds
Magnolia (1999)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore
The Master (2012)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
Inherent Vice (2014)
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson
Short | Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

The rise and fall of Dirk Diggler.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Michael Stein, Robert Ridgely, Eddie Delcore
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds
Adaptation. (2002)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean for the screen.

Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Barton Fink (1991)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis
Blood Simple. (1984)
Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Tom Regan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintupelets, their lives get more complicated than they anticipated.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Edit

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
Edit

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

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:

 »
Edit

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  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Thomas Anderson has rarely commented on the movie since its release and it remains his least known film. By 2015, DVD copies were selling for over $100 online. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where Sydney goes to Jimmy's house, daylight is visible in one shot (although it was night outside from the shot before) and then it is night time again. See more »

Quotes

Sydney: This is a very fucked-up situation.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Maltin on Movies: Iron Man 3 Special (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Country's Cool
Written by Jim Jacobsen (uncredited)
Courtesy OGM/Old Georg Music, Hollywood, California
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Off-beat casino drama
25 October 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is also known as "Sydney" (director Paul Thomas Anderson's original title) after the name of the movie's central character, a somewhat mysterious casino gambler (and murderer, by the way) played by veteran Philip Baker Hall. The new and more commercially-viable title comes from the game of craps in which the dice player can roll an eight with a six and a two or with a five and a three or with two fours. Since probabilistically the hardest way to roll an eight is with two fours, that's called a "hard eight." Such a choice occurs twice in the movie, and symbolically a "hard eight" may represent the gambler's psychology.

Co-starring as Sydney's protégé is John C. Reilly as John Finnegan, a kind of lovable schmuck who falls in love with a Reno waitress/prostitute named Clementine, played quirkily by Gwyneth Paltrow. Samuel L. Jackson has a modest but very convincing part as a casino security sleaze.

Anderson's direction of these very talented actors was excellent. I wish I could say the same for his script. Most viewers I suspect will find this a bit dull; and, as it unfolds and we find out why Sydney is playing guardian angel to John, viewers may even be disappointed. I know I was. I had expected something original as Sydney's motivation, but what we learn in the last reel is quite ordinary (as movie motivations go).

What kept me watching was of course trying to figure out what makes Sydney tick and why and how he can spend his time so aimlessly gambling (and almost always losing), and where his money comes from. I also was intrigued by the originality of Anderson's treatment as opposed to his story per se. The stylized, slightly "off" dialogue, especially well-suited to Reilly's studied interpretation and Philip Baker Hall's inscrutability, reminded me of something that might have been written by David Mamet or even Quentin Taratino. Finally I was interested in seeing how Paltrow would play a role seemingly quite removed from her screen persona. I thought the delicate and very winning star of Shakespeare in Love (1998), etc., worked hard to create the sort of lower-class, uneducated, "victim" of the Las Vegas/ Reno casino culture that Anderson had in mind, and I thought she did it well. However, hers was not a sympathetic role and it did not test Paltrow's range as a actress, although playing a prostitute is something many actresses find interesting. I am thinking of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990) and Elizabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) or even Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour (1967).

Bottom line here is that this is a studied, "arty" movie well worth seeing because of the performances and as an example of Anderson's unique style, but not something for a mass audience or for those viewers looking for a diverting thriller.

But see this for Philip Baker Hall, one of those rare actors to actually find his best roles and do his best work in his sixties. Indeed, his performance here revitalized a career that had long languished. In this regard I am reminded of the Swedish actor Victor Sjostrom who gave perhaps his greatest performance in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957) when he was 80 years old. Although I have seen little of Hall's work, I am willing to bet that this was one of his greatest performances.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)


25 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Hard Eight is a better title Zosoerob
PSH playing craps benihana83
A great little GEM!!! Dissector
Sydney or Hard Eight butterfinger
Sydney's free room comp technique johnson3000
What do Sydney and John DO all day? kttimlin
Discuss Hard Eight (1996) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?