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Hard Eight (Sydney) (1996)


Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 35
Fresh: 29
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 11
Fresh: 9
Rotten: 2

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 10,964



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

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


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Critic Reviews for Hard Eight (Sydney)

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (6) | DVD (12)

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

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

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

January 1, 2000
Houston Chronicle
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

It's hugely refreshing to watch a movie populated almost exclusively by character actors.

January 1, 2000
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

A clever, confident debut from Paul Thomas Anderson and a showcase role for character actor Philip Baker Hall.

Full Review… | October 16, 2014

A near-classic in a minor key, and a must-see for fans of later work.

Full Review… | October 19, 2012

...a low-key yet sporadically fascinating drama...

Full Review… | December 20, 2007
Reel Film Reviews

This minor Vegas-set drama, about a loser and his older mentor, shows the features that will mark Anderson's better films: love for his characters, taut dialogue at the expense of plot, and fascination with the possibilities of the film medium.

Full Review… | October 26, 2007

Estréia de Anderson, mostra que o diretor sempre teve talento para contar histórias, embora ainda não tivesse confiança o bastante para criar as belas tomadas e movimentos de câmera que marcam seus trabalhos posteriores.

July 25, 2003
Cinema em Cena

Suffice it to say that mood rules over story.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
E! Online

A comedy without humor, a tragedy without emotion, and a story without meaning.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Internet Reviews


Full Review… | January 1, 2000

Anderson's screenplay is full of superb dialogue and has some unexpected twists.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Boxoffice Magazine

In many ways this film reminds me of Melville's wonderful film, Bob The Gambler...

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Odds are you'll like getting to the revealing good stuff. There are more than a few reasons why.

January 1, 2000
Jam! Movies

This being an acting piece, the four performances are of a very high order.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Sacramento Bee

Anderson, who developed this first feature at the Sundance Institute, builds his characters well -- and the casting is perfect.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Audience Reviews for Hard Eight (Sydney)


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 may be a little anticlimactic but the continuous mood and intensity really does make for a thrilling watch. Don't get me wrong, this isn't really your stereotypical thriller, it's a lot more, or should I say, a lot lass than that. Less is more is what I'm trying to say. I've been a harsh critic of Anderson in the past, my reviews are from years ago and I don't really feel the same anymore although Boogie nights and Magnolia are still over-hyped for me, but maybe if I'd seen this first, I'd see his work in a new light. Not that I can be bothered to re-review films...

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

Hard Eight (Sydney) Quotes

Never ignore a man's courtesy.
– Submitted by Kia M (8 months ago)
Good that you have such a sturdy sense of responsibility.
– Submitted by Kia M (8 months ago)
You know the first thing they should've taught you at hooker school? You get the money up front!
– Submitted by Kia M (8 months ago)
This is a very fucked up situation.
– Submitted by Kia M (8 months ago)

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