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Hard Eight (1996)

Sydney (original title)
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Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.
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4,314 ( 335)
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 | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Gross USA:

$222,559

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$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

Samuel L. Jackson and Philip Baker Hall appeared in Kiss of Death (1995). 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: You know the first thing they should've taught you at hooker school? You get the money up front!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Hollywood's Top Ten: Gwyneth Paltrow Movies (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Christmastime
Music by Jon Brion and Michael Penn
Performed by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
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User Reviews

A low key but effective film that is effortlessly carried by great performances
13 March 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Sydney is an old gambler who shows kindness to a man he meets outside a diner. He helps out John by lending him £50 and then teaching him enough about gambling to make his way. Two years later finds John loyally sticking with John and adoring him. However, their relationship is put under pressure when John hooks up with Clementine, a cocktail waitress who also turns tricks and Jimmy, a low life with no respect for Sydney.

Although it was pretty badly treated in the UK and mostly ignored and overlooked, the success of Anderson's films since has given many a reason to look back on Hard Eight (the much better but less meaningful title given it for the UK release) and `discover' it. It certainly is an impressive film and it is difficult to see why it received neither financial or critic success when it was released. The plot is deceptive - starting as a character piece, changing violently with a series of twists and then reverting back to the character piece we started with.

The film is totally driven by it's characters and they are very well written to the point that we care about them even before we really know all about them. The title `Sydney' is more meaningful simply because the film is pretty much all about Sydney himself. He is a kind man and we wonder why but are gradually won over his gentle nature. This makes the second half of the film more thrilling simply because we think we know Sydney but then he has to do things we think are not in him. Anderson directs with a remarkable assurance; he has style and a real sense of framing. He mixes close ups with wider shots using the fluorescent lighting of the gambling joints to good effect - his direction is as good here as it was in his other, more acclaimed films.

The main thing that makes this film so good though, is the cast. Hall is excellent; I cannot stress how good he is here - his character is well written but it is Hall that makes it work so well with a performance that is subtle and controlled. Reilly is a great character actor and he does the same here with a hangdog expression and put upon attitude. Paltrow is very good for someone whom people seem to have forgotten can actually act. Her Clementine is more complex that first appears. However despite her good work, I think that Paltrow's limited screen time actually helps the film - she is not the focus here. Jackson is his usual cool self and turns in a memorable performance while Anderson even has a part for Hoffman.

I can imagine some people will not like this film: it is talky for long sections and it ends with questions to be answered - this may frustrate some people but for me I felt it allowed me to think for myself and use what I had learnt about Sydney. This is a surprisingly mature film from such a young director and one that you owe it to yourself to undercover in retrospect.


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