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Hard eight (1996)

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

Original Title : Sydney
Director : Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer : Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre : Crime
Thriller
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : Hans Brockmann , François Duplat , Robert Jones , Daniel Lupi , John S. Lyons , Helene Mulholland , Keith Samples
Music : Jon Brion
Michael Penn
Photography : Robert Elswit
Distributor : Cannes Home Vídeo [br]
MPAA Rating : Rated R for strong language, some violence and sexuality.
IMDB ID : 0119256
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poster for "Hard eight" by Paul Thomas Anderson (1996)
Hard eight (1996) - Paul Thomas Anderson
 

Starring

Philip Baker Hall Sydney 'Syd'/'Captain'
John C. Reilly John Finnegan
John C. Reilly John Finnegan
 

Plot

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. Sydney is a veteran gambler in his sixties who still spends his time at the casinos. When he meets John, a loser with no money at all, he sees him as a son and tries to help him. He takes care of him and teaches him all the tricks of his work. He also helps him to make a relationship with Clementine, a young girl who works at the casino as a waitress. John doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that Clementine is also a hooker, but soon something happens that turns their lives upside down.
 

Comments

Stunning. I've seen this film twice now.The first time was after I'd seen Boogie Nights - and I instantly fell in love with this little gem.I've just watched it again today, having now seen Magnolia as well (at it's first public New Zealand screening!)And my original impression has been confirmed. It could not be a more different film than Magnolia.Ignoring Boogie Nights as the link between these two extremes (though, it's a sin to actually IGNORE Boogie Nights) we have on the one hand a (deceptively) simple character study painted with a noir brush.On the other hand we have a (deceptively) complicated multiple character study - which uses every trick in the book, and some which haven't even been written down yet. Paul Thomas Anderson's last two efforts (and both have been amazing in their own right) have been huge movies and I think he's been typecast for this sort of movie.But I don't know that his modus operandi is 'the long film' - rather, 'the actor-driven character and atmosphere study.'Thus, whilst Hard Eight - or Sydney (which is a much BETTER name, because this is about a man named Sydney - NOT about a craps play mentioned once in passing in the film) is not a long film, it is indeed an actor-driven character study. The actor and character could be one and the same - Phillip Baker Hall's portrayal of Sydney is nothing short of sensational.Sydney has so much cool and control that when he loses it - on only two occassions - it only adds to the impact.I could go on forever about how perfect Phillip Baker Hall is, but it really would be better if you just saw it. John C Reilly plays his character with that naïveté that seems to come so naturally to him - his character is the perfect foil for Sydney.Gwyneth Paltrow is in good form in this film.The scene in the hotel room is real and intense, and her performance adds a lot to this.Sam Jackson does a good job too, even if it is a little on the typecast side.But what he provides is the foil for Sydney's 'other' side - whereas John respects Sydney and allows his calm power to shine through, Jimmy strikes the weak nerve in him - and we get to see him as a more rounded character. This is what a good character study should be.I often can't stand character studies.Even if they're good characters, they are often so plotless that it's not worth the effort (Magnolia is a good exception). This has just enough plot (which actually serves very little other than to embelish Sydney's character!) to sustain the viewer throughout.It is, like Paul's other films, fairly sectional. . . but as in all the other films, this works very well. You could think of Magnolia is a rainbow of 'stuff'.Sydney is just one colour - but it is such a perfect colour you could melt into it.There is, in my opinion, not a single scene that is not right in this film.Not a single line of dialogue that does not add to it.Everything is right, and I hate to gush so much, but no-one else seems to have given it the right level of praise.It's a different sort of film to Boogie Nights and Magnolia, but it's still distinctively by the same man, and it's still one of THE best films I have seen.End.
 
poster for "Hard eight"
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Hard eight (1996) - Paul Thomas Anderson
poster for "Hard eight"
327 x 475
Hard eight (1996) - Paul Thomas Anderson
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