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

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  28 February 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 26,339 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 134 user | 59 critic | 14 from

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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When good luck is a long shot, you have to hedge your bets. See more »


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hard Eight  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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


$142,356 (USA) (7 March 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Paul Thomas Anderson, on the DVD commentary, admitted to successfully pulling off several times the casino rate card trick shown in the film. See more »


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 »


Sydney: You know the first thing they should've taught you at hooker school? You get the money up front!
See more »


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


Love Is Free
By Frederick Knight (as F. Knight) / Bettye Crutcher (as B. Crutcher)
Performed by Brenton Wood
Courtesy of Hi Records
Under License From EMI Capitol Music Special Markets
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User Reviews

A Calm and Collected Character Study
19 January 2004 | by (Atlanta, GA) – See all my reviews

Hard Eight (1996/Paul Thomas Anderson) ***1/2 out of ****

The camera opens to a diner called "Jack's Coffee Shop". A semi is pulling out of the parking lot. After it pulls away, two people are revealed. A young man sitting by the door with his face to the ground, and an older man who is walking towards him. Even though we can't see his face, we know he is old, just by the way he moves. He asks the young man if he would like some coffee and cigarettes. And this is how Paul Thomas Anderson's first film begins.

"Hard Eight" is about a down and out loser named John (John C. Reilly), who sits outside a diner, until he is encountered by a mysterious old man named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall). Sydney offers him $50, and a lesson in gambling. Before to long, they are in Reno, making lots of money. Then two people get in the way of their friendship: Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a hooker/waitress; and Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), a mischievous security guard who seems to be hiding something.

I never thought that Paul Thomas Anderson could make such a grounded film with substance. His usual films are flashy ensembles, and they move fast. But "Hard Eight" is a different story. It is a slow paced Film Noir, that is both quiet and observant. The cinematography is drab, and the direction is tranquil. Philip Baker Hall and Paltrow turn in good performances. But it is Jackson who really shines. The twist could have been over done, but instead, it is handled nicely and effectively.

"Hard Eight" is by far one of the most interesting character studies of the 90's. I like this cool side of Anderson, and I wish he would use it more often than his usual over the top formula (although I like both). This is no classic, but I found it worth buying.


20 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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