Hard Eight (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

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 … More

Rating: R (for strong language, some violence and sexuality)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 5, 1999


as Clementine

as John Finnegan

as Young Craps Player

as Restroom Attendant

as Waitress

as Keno Bar Manager

as Stickman

as Cocktail Waitress

as Jimmy's Girl

as Cashier

as Aladdin Cashier

as Desk Clerk

as Floorman

as Aladdin Change Booth...

as El Dorado Cashier

as Pants on Fire Person

as Pants on Fire Person

as Pants on Fire Person
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Hard Eight

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Critic Reviews for Hard Eight

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (12)

Anderson coaxes top-notch performances from the male leads and also from Gwyneth Paltrow.

Full Review… | January 22, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

It is really little more than a small resonant mood piece whose hard-bitten characters are difficult to like. But within its self-imposed limitations, it accomplishes most of what it sets out to do.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
New York Times
Top Critic

Has ... meaning and truth, not to mention scarred humanity.

January 1, 2000
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

There's something almost hypnotic about the way Hard Eight develops -- even in its slowest, most tedious moments, it keeps our attention.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Movies like Hard Eight remind me of what original, compelling characters the movies can sometimes give us.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Best of all is Anderson's sense of character, expressed in dialogue that never strains for effect and in his expert handling of a first-rate quartet of actors.

January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Hard Eight


A commanding performance by Philip Baker Hall is the highlight of P T Anderson's character and mood driven debut.

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

A gambler takes a hapless fellow under his wing, but when he falls for the wrong woman, their lives could be threatened.
Paul Thomas Anderson's feature film debut is a slow-moving but compelling drama. Phillip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly, who would later become PTA alums, play characters reminiscent of their careers as a whole -- Hall a tough, restrained fatherly figure and Reilly a dumb, doe-eyed everyman. Usually these characters are confined to the background, but when PTA focuses on them, they are compelling.
The plot isn't much to write home about, and the last-act reveal isn't terribly surprising, but the film marches along inoffensively.
Overall, PTA's debut wasn't the harbinger of greatness that one might expect, but it's certainly worthy of his oeuvre.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


A solid first feature from the praised P.T. Anderson concerning a mysterious figure named Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) who shows compassion to two aimless young people (John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow) by taking them in under his wing, who in turn get him in the middle of a big mess involving an assault of a stranger. Hall has been one of those actors who pops up seemingly everywhere as a supporting piece, but there is no doubt that this is his show, and perhaps his finest hour, as he keeps the audience guessing as to what he is going to do next all while maintaining a composed demeanor. While far from Anderson's best film, that is a simple story that is very well acted and well-written. It is far from a masterpiece as it tends to drag in sections, but Hall's character makes this worth a view alone.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Hard Eight Quotes

– Submitted by Kia M (20 months ago)
– Submitted by Kia M (20 months ago)
– Submitted by Kia M (20 months ago)
– Submitted by Kia M (20 months ago)

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