Hard Eight


Hard Eight

Critics Consensus

An absorbing showcase for Philip Baker Hall, Paul Thomason Anderson's feature debut is a gamble that pays off handsomely.



Total Count: 36


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,848
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Movie Info

In this film, luckless destitute gambler John meets suave and seemingly kind-hearted Sydney, a successful professional gambler. Sydney offers to teach John all his gaming secrets, and the lessons begin back in Reno. Unfortunately, while Sydney knows how to be restrained, John is a loose cannon.


Gwyneth Paltrow
as Clementine
John C. Reilly
as John Finnegan
Philip Seymour Hoffman
as Young Craps Player
Nathanael Cooper
as Restroom Attendant
Wynn White
as Waitress
Robert Ridgely
as Keno Bar Manager
Steve Blane
as Stickman
as Cocktail Waitress
Melora Walters
as Jimmy's Girl
Jean Langer
as Cashier
Jane W. Brimmer
as Aladdin Cashier
Mark Finizza
as Desk Clerk
Richard Gross
as Floorman
Cliff Keeley
as Aladdin Change Booth Attendant
Carrie McVey
as El Dorado Cashier
Ernie Anderson
as Pants on Fire Person
Wendy Weidman
as Pants on Fire Person
Jason Cross
as Pants on Fire Person
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Critic Reviews for Hard Eight

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (30) | Rotten (6)

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

    Jan 22, 2002 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/5
  • Has ... meaning and truth, not to mention scarred humanity.

    Jan 1, 2000
  • There's something almost hypnotic about the way Hard Eight develops -- even in its slowest, most tedious moments, it keeps our attention.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Movies like Hard Eight remind me of what original, compelling characters the movies can sometimes give us.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 1, 2000

    John Hartl

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Hard Eight

  • May 02, 2014
    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 H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 13, 2013
    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 S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 19, 2012
    Hard Eight is Paul Thomas Anderson's first and most underatted film. Expanded from a a short he shot several years earlier. The story focuses on a down on luck loner (John C. Reilly) who meets a professional gambler (Phillip Baker Hall), they soon become partners and have some neat tricks when making easy money, But is not always a pleasure when you've other to care for. Anderson competently wrote and directored the low key drama with some first rate perfomances from Hall and Reilly and some great supports from Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. Its definitley an essential film if your a lover of Paul Thomas Anderson's films.
    Luke E Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2011
    Shocking and entretaining, Hard Eight is a film with good acting and terrific screenplay.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer

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