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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 26,288 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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Five people's lives that are curiously intertwined happen to all be at a diner at the same time. An old man (Hall) gives advice to a young man (Baltz) about his cheating wife and best ... See full summary »

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Kirk Baltz, Philip Baker Hall, Scott Coffey


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


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


Director Anderson has admitted that Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur (1956) was a major influence on this film. See more »


At 30. The crap table that Sydney walks by players cheering but the cover (lid) and count slip on top. If it were a real game there would be no cover See more »


Sydney: [at the cocktail lounge] Tell me something. Are you required to flirt, to behave as you do toward that table of men over there? Maybe... it's some part of your job?
Clementine: Uh, they don't say to do it.
Sydney: But if you don't?
Clementine: Well, then I get questioned, like: "Why were so rude to them?", and, I mean, I can't talk back. I can't tell them to fuck off and leave me alone.
Sydney: As a rule?
Clementine: I'd also lose the tip.
See more »


Referenced in Magnolia (1999) See more »


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

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User Reviews

Promising debut from Anderson
22 February 1999 | by (Brooklyn, NY) – See all my reviews

This first film from Paul Thomas Anderson shows the promise he would later fulfill with BOOGIE NIGHTS. The writing here is as sharp as it was in the later film, but it must be said as a director, he sometimes lets scenes go on too long (ironic that BOOGIE NIGHTS, which is a longer film, is also a tighter one). The main connection between both films is Anderson's obvious affection for his characters. Also the relationship between Sydney and John doesn't turn out the way you'd expect. And Anderson is to be commended for avoiding melodrama.

Philip Baker Hall is one of those actors who you may not know by name, but when you see him you instinctively feel he's right for the part, no matter how small. This is one of his rare leading roles, and he's perfect, showing the character's success and also his loneliness, without sentimentalizing it. John C. Reilly is properly eager and naive as John. Samuel L. Jackson is dependable here, and Gwyneth Paltrow proves she doesn't need a British accent to give a good performance. She and Jackson should also be commended for backing Anderson when he had problems with the studio.

17 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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