7.3/10
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Hard Eight (1996)

Sydney (original title)
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1:43 | Trailer

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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 | 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:

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

Gwyneth Paltrow co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in this movie. Paltrow also co-starred with Robert De Niro in Great Expectations (1998). Jackson and De Niro co-starred in Jackie Brown (1997), so both actors have co-starred with Paltrow. See more »

Goofs

Camera operator's shadow visible on the ground during the first scene where Sydney meets John (full-frame version only). 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 ...
See more »

Connections

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

 
a first-time filmmaker very well on his way...
23 August 2005 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Paul Thomas Anderson's first film, Sydney (titled 'Hard Eight' by the distributors), has a story, but its more concerned about the characters, and how these actors play them. Like its inspiration, Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur, understanding who these people are in this seedy, desperate environment, is the key. The script is intelligent, and contains a truth that isn't found in most "off-beat" crime films. In fact, the crimes in the film, while not without the importance to the story, is secondary to how these people are around one another, the courtesy, the un-said things, the mishaps, and the truths. In tune with Melville, the film is decidedly European- the story is quite leisurely, almost too much so, but in the characters Anderson has created and fleshed out he has people we can care about.

Philip Baker Hall, in a towering performance of professionalism (he's one of those great character actors who practically wears the years of his life on his face, not to sound pretentious about it), is the title character of Sydney. He offers Jimmy (John C. Reilly, believable in a role seemingly more like himself than his Reed Rothchild in Anderson's Boogie Nights) a cigarette and a cup of coffee, and then finds out through the conversation his mother's passed on. He offers up an intricate, but rewarding, way of making money in a casino without laying down a card (the slots, and a different scheme). Flash ahead two years later (awesome transition, by the way) where Jimmy is with Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow, a good performance). Things seem to be going alright all around, except that Jimmy has a violent (shown off-screen, of course) run-in, and needs Sydney's help. But there's another secret that has yet to be told.

All the little details of the story are accentuated by a directorial style that is usually peerless, and the tracking shots that have become paramount in Anderson's films (i.e. opening of Boogie Nights, walking through TV studio in Magnolia) are as smooth and interesting as anything from Scorsese. The Vegas Muzak is a touch that adds, like with Melville, a cool kind of touch not at all un-like film-noir. It's actually a thin line that Anderson is walking; how to make the Melville story's elements (an aging gambler past his prime, watching over the young people in their own messes, seeing the old turn to new) as one's own. I think he's achieved that in the film with a sense of sincerity with the characters dialog with each other. Perhaps Sydney has a different agenda than just being friendly. But Anderson wisely allows Hall to make the right choices with just certain facial expressions, what isn't said that counts. And the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson bring out the kind of intensity, sometimes quiet sometimes not, that hallmark his best performances. Maybe not a masterpiece, but it certainly isn't the work of an amateur, assured in his own script as a director, and in the strengths of his four key players.


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