Hard Eight (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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.
R (for strong language, some violence and sexuality)
Directed By:
Written By:
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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
Kathleen Campbell
as Keno Girl
Michael J. Rowe
as Pit Boss
Steve Blane
as Stickman
as Cocktail Waitress
Melora Walters
as Jimmy's Girl
Jean Langer
as Cashier
Andy Breen
as Groom
Renee Breen
as Bride
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 (35) | Top Critics (11)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

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

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

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

December 31, 1999
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.

December 31, 1999
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Hard Eight

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
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

Shocking and entretaining, Hard Eight is a film with good acting and terrific screenplay.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

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