Hard Eight 1997 R CC

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(84) IMDb 7.3/10
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Before his commercial breakthrough with Boogie Nights (1997), writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson made this low-key drama. John (John C. Reilly), a half-bright loser stranded in Reno, is down to his last few bucks when Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall), taking pity on him, buys him breakfast and offers him a few tips on making money in the casinos. Two years later, John has become Sydney's partner, but his lack of common sense goes from problematic to dangerous when he falls in love with Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cocktail waitress who isn't above turning a few tricks when she needs to make money -- and isn't any brighter than John. Hall and Reilly, both first-rate character actors, are cast in rare leading roles, and Paltrow is cast strongly against type as a part-time prostitute with a serious lack of street smarts.

Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly
1 hour, 42 minutes

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Hard Eight

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Product Details

Genres Drama
Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly
Supporting actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, F. William Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nathanael Cooper, Wynn White, Robert Ridgely, Kathleen Campbell, Michael J. Rowe, Peter D'Allesandro, Steve Blane, Xaleese, Melora Walters, Jean Langer, Andy Breen, Renee Breen, Jane W. Brimmer, Mark Finizza
Studio Paramount
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

A very good story, well acted and well put together.
Marco Polo
For a good portion of the movie I was unsure of where the film was going, but I was very interested in how it was going to get there.
Joe Sherry
The film's plot reveals the characters to us in its own time .

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Carl Glanville@aol.com on February 28, 2000
Format: DVD
Paul Thomas Anderson is, by his own admission, a big fan of dvd/laserdisc commentary tracks, where, if you are lucky, you'll hear the director, actors, writers and/or the cinematographer of the movie you are watching talk about how it was 'all done'.
Hard Eight, or "Sydney" as it is better known to the people that made it, is a superb example of what a DVD presentation has to offer. There is the marvellous widescreen transfer - the movie LOOKS great, then there are TWO commentary tracks, the first by P.T.A. and star, Philip Baker Hall on 'Audio 2', and the other track is a great combination (the first I've seen like this) where the director interviews cast and crew members himself (on the set during the production of Magnolia) - you get their thoughts and comments cleverly sandwiched in-between the movie's music cues - so you essentially get an isloated music track and second commentary on the 'Audio 3' track. The isolated music track is, in places, different to what actually appears in the film too.
On top of this there are deleted scenes from the movie and footage from a Sundance Institute Filmakers Lab, which show scenes that were shot as an experiment/example of what the real film could/would be.
PT Anderson's commentary tracks are very enthusiastic, honest and extremely informative. If you have any interest in filmaking this is a really good one!
Oh, and it's a good film too.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael Crane on August 1, 2003
Format: DVD
Talk about a more-than-impressive debut from a very important director, P.T. Anderson's "Hard Eight" hits all of the right notes at all of the right times. It's a film that's built around characters and dialogue rather than plot. It's a film that takes you for an unpredictable ride into the unknown and delivers a good time. Debuts come and go, but rarely do they come in top-form like this. A film noir filled with drama, humor and heart, "Hard Eight" is a very satisfying film that is enjoyable to watch.
Sidney is an old timer who used to be a successful gambler. He stumbles upon a not-so-lucky John, who is pretty much broke. Sidney unexpectedly takes him under his wing and helps him get back on his feet. The two become very close friends as time goes by and as John's winning streak improves more and more. However, John's going to need serious help from Sidney later on, and it's something that's a lot more serious than money troubles in this very involving film noir that is both thoughtful and dark.
As with the other P.T. Anderson films, I had no idea what to expect from this movie. And that's what's so great about him. No film is ever the same, and each film has a look and feel of its own. In no way could P.T. Anderson ever be a one-trick director. It is apparent that he has MANY tricks up his sleeves, and has only begun to reveal them to us.
The film certainly stands out from other debuts. It's got a strong cast, a smart screenplay, and a certain direction it wants to take. The film is complex, but not because of the plot. It is complex because the characters themselves are complex. That is what's so unique about the film. You want to take the time to get to know the characters.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Evan Erwin on June 28, 2000
Format: DVD
Paul Thomas Anderson knew what he was doing. Back in the year-o-our-Lord 19-hundred-and-ninety-six, he made a small film called SYDNEY (It was the studios idea of calling the film Hard Eight). It featured a wonderful Phillip Baker Hall (who was again featured in Magnolia and Boogie Nights). As well as John C. Reilly (Magnolia and Boogie Nights again) as well as a wonderfully done Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson.
The script is just absolutely top-notch. This is not an action film. This is a character film, as is all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films. The cinematography (how the film looks) is amazing. Its not a cliche-ridden film as most movies are when centered around Reno or Vegas. You meet a man with an unknown past, find little facts about him along the way, and before its over, you're not sure whether it was better to know or be left in the dark.
The story is that Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall)helps a down-on-his-luck guy, John (John C. Reilly). He takes him under his wing. Wonderful writing, action, and suspense follows. I won't give away too much. I like to get the surprises as they come.
The performances are amazing, establishing Phillip Baker Hall (which P.T. Anderson wrote it for) as one of the best actors out there today. Samuel L. Jackson gives a surprisingly interesting performance, as well as Gwyneth.
It is not Boogie Nights. It is not Magnolia. It stands on its own as a dwelve into the mind of a man with a sordid past and the sweet-and-sour need for redemption, in any fashion you can get it. The extras are very interesting (only ONE deleted scene? Are you kidding me?), the most being the Sundance Lab test-shots. Its actors just acting, little scenery, no music. Its raw and beautiful, the way these actors go from the rough video to the big screen.
A definite must-see.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 8, 2003
Format: DVD
Few movies can make characters seem entirely real, or convey a mix of feelings as subtlely as this film can. "Hard Eight" is one of those few. With characters that seem like real people, a sinuously twisted plot, and plenty of suspense, rain-darkened skies and shady characters.
A former pro gambler, Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), stumbles across a young man named John (John C. Reilly) at a roadside restaurant; John is broke, embittered, homeless, and needs money for his mother's funeral -- money he doesn't have, and doesn't know how to get. Sydney makes him an offer: John will come to Vegas and Sydney will teach him how to gamble. Though John is suspicious at first, he soon comes to trust Sydney, who takes the young man under his wing and gets him a job.
Two years later, Sydney also takes the young waittress/hooker Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) under his wing, giving her a place to stay, and letting her and John go out to have fun. But their day out takes a horrific turn when Clementine falls back into her old ways and sleeps with a jerk. When he won't pay, John takes him hostage, and turns to Sydney for help. After learning that John and Clementine got married, Sydney does bail his young friends out of their predicament. But then he comes face-to-face with Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), who knows -- and may reveal -- the shadowy secrets in Sydney's past.
"Hard Eight" fulfills the specifications of film noir like few modern films do. The overcast sky and constant rain hint at the dark threads running through the film. Adding to the feeling are the complex and secretive characters, the glimpses into the darker sides of human nature, and the fact that very little is what it seems.
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