Hard Eight - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hard Eight Reviews

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½ June 24, 2016
Hard Eight is fairly entertaining. It has a steady pace from beginning to end and doesn't fail in any of the technical aspects. But compared to what PTA would later make, it's not really an exciting movie. There's plenty of back story to the characters that they assume we won't care for, and even if it's true, it still feels like it's missing something.
February 23, 2014
An early film from Paul Thomas Anderson. A gambler takes a young gambler under his wings and shows him how to work the system and make a living off of it. Eventually the young protege becomes involved with a cocktail waitress and he eventually comes to learn some bad information about his mentor. A pretty decent movie if it is a bit of a slow burn. A pretty solid cast from John Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, and Philip Baker Hall.
June 3, 2016
74%
Saw this on 2/6/16
An average film from an always overrated Paul Thomas Anderson that is well shot and features a good performance from Philip Baker Hall. However, the story is so thin and despite some tension buildup, the film is mostly lacking in suspense.
½ May 25, 2016
Amazing journey! A must see!
May 6, 2016
1972's The Godfather Is My Fourth Favorite Film Of All Time.
April 10, 2016
Paul Thomas Anderson made a name for himself with Hard Eight/Sydney but it wasn't until his next feature, Boogie Nights, where we really saw what he could do. Still, Hard Eight, holds up pretty well on its own, with great performances from the likes of Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I often find myself comparing Paul Thomas Anderson's first two films with the work of Quentin Tarantino because I just think that they both had a similar approach to movie-making at the time, though that's certainly less the case today. Anyway, for me, Hard Eight is Anderson's Jackie Brown- it's more quiet and understated than Boogie Nights (or Pulp Fiction if we're still talking about Tarantino) but it has the same focus on giving multiple interesting characters a chance to breathe and develop on-screen. Indeed, that's really the point of Hard Eight (and why Anderson named it Sydney) - it's really about seeing Hall's character develop and this happens in the midst of a romance, a casino flick, a drama, and even a mob movie to some extent (though maybe that's just what happens to films when you put Casinos in them).

Anyway, there's plenty to love here and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Paltrow and Reilly, who seemed to work together surprising well on screen.

It certainly lacks energy at times and not always in the same brooding way that much of Anderson's later, slower ,work does- Hard Eight just lacks a little self-belief at times and is clearly the work of a filmaker who, for whatever reasons, seemed to be somewhat limited in how they told their story. Boogie Nights certainly changed that though.

One of my least-favouritte of Anderson's films but he is my favourite living writer and director so that's not really saying much. A great film, but better was still to come.
½ December 27, 2015
Same old and tired theme in a different setting.
November 29, 2015
HARD EIGHT (or, Sydney) has been overshadowed a bit by PTA's later efforts, but it remains a striking debut film. The performances, especially that of Philip Baker Hall and a truly frightening Samuel L. Jackson, both deserving of Oscar nominations, are unforgettable. Philip Seymour Hoffman also shows up for one of the most memorable cameo performances I've ever seen, I miss that man. There is obvious talent in every frame, a calling card for the brilliance that would come later on.
October 3, 2015
First and I feel best Paul Anderson film.
October 1, 2015
Paul Thomas Anderson has a certain way of making the lives of the sordid fly by with consuming luminosity, and his debut feature, 1996's "Hard Eight", acts as an audition of sorts for his later, more shattering works ("Boogie Nights", "Magnolia"). Like Robert Altman, his films are more pronounced when they're epic in scope, when the ensemble is lined up from corner to corner, when the story is melodramatic and, at times, whimsical. By comparison, "Hard Eight" is small, settling down to tell the story of a professional gambler who takes a down-on-his-luck young man under his wing for unknown reasons.
The previously mentioned gambler is Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), an aging sinner who dresses like an uncorrupted oil tycoon and speaks with the slippery woes of a pastor. When we first meet him, he invites street-dwelling bum John (John C. Reilly) for a cup of coffee, eventually inviting him to travel down to Reno with him to learn the ins-and-outs of gambling and make a living. With no prospects, John takes the offer, unsuspecting that Sydney may have underlying intentions.
Two years later, John has become Sydney's right-hand man, calling a local casino home and calling hooker/waitress Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) his main squeeze. Sydney now views the kid as a makeshift son, helping him stay out of trouble and always providing support when the going gets rough. For the most part, the three live a peaceful, if unfulfilling existence - but when John acts irrationally one night and takes one of Clementine's john's hostage after he doesn't pay her, the mini-empire Sydney has created for them may come crashing down.
As an introduction to the works of Anderson, "Hard Eight" provides a foundation but not a feast. We have the three-dimensional characters, dressed to the nines in eccentricities that could only work in the hands of Anderson, the compulsively listenable dialogue, the modernized music, the plot points that seem unexpected because everything is so real. But missing is the lived-in atmosphere that Anderson so frequently boasts, which does not count as a complaint because "Hard Eight" is 97 minutes while his most recent film, "Inherent Vice", was 149. It feels minor thanks to the operatic flawlessness of his other movies. And yet, even when Anderson is taking a day off (or in this case, introducing himself), his sensibilities are still a hell of a lot more effective than most of his peers.
But the best thing about "Hard Eight" is the casting of Philip Baker Hall, a character actor usually so confined to supporting parts in A-list movies that seeing him pave the way for once is an unequivocal treat. Few actors could play Sydney with such believability - with his puppy-dog eyes and weathered face, he has the look of a man who has made grave mistakes during his lifetime, only in his old age deciding that now is the time to make right. When it is revealed why he decided to help John in the first place is at once shocking and completely unsurprising - it's rage-inducing and heartbreaking. As John, Reilly is lovably apish; as his girl, Paltrow jerks our emotions - young and beautiful, we can see her potential but are also aware that the world is too cruel of a place to get her out of the purgatory she calls home.
If you're looking for Anderson's breakthrough, turn toward the wondrous "Boogie Nights", a deliciously satirical yet tragic account of the Golden Age of Porn. But "Hard Eight", small and to-the-point, is still competent and clever enough to make for above average entertainment. It's for the die-hard Anderson obsessors who ran out of epics to fixate upon.
September 1, 2015
-IGNORE THIS "OUT OF FIVE" RATING
3/4
Admittedly simple but intelligent story of an old gambling virtuoso teaching a much younger man tricks to get rich in casinos. His reasons of doing so are one of the movie's several twists. Directing debut of Paul Thomas Anderson is an impressive start for a great director. And like all his movies, it's the characters not the story that makes his movies special.
½ May 1, 2015
A very fine forgotten little crime drama gem from Anderson.Love movies where long time character actors get their shot to shine and Hall hits it out of the park.
½ April 10, 2015
A solid drama with a few glimpses of Anderson's signature style.
March 23, 2015
A great first feature film from who is one of the best director's of all-time. Before seeing John C. Reilly in Magnolia, I honestly never knew he could really act. He was damn good in this film too.
February 10, 2015
Didn't like the movie itself much however the cast kept me interested very slow and not much happens until the final minutes just about watchable
February 6, 2015
Found this a bit slow only the great cast kept me interested not much happens for the vast majority of the film glad I watched but wouldn't watch again
January 10, 2015
Missed this when it first came out, very watchable.
January 5, 2015
It is so downbeat and scenes are occasionally so overlong that it really tests your patience, but ultimately it is rewarding as a character study. The first act of the movie, as Philip Baker Hall shows John C. Reilly the ropes, is worth the price of admission alone. It's a film that might leave your mind, but in the moment is thoughtful and something you can theorize about. A true seed for PTA's future masterpieces.
½ November 8, 2014
great and good and p.t. crazygood. also super cool that it's got that super cool pta vibe but it's in a smaller package. nice to have a quick pta snack now and then instead of a tasty feast like the others. :)
½ February 14, 2014
The first film from Paul Thomas Anderson is a really good one. Philip Baker Hall play a character named Sydney. He is a man with a mysterious past that connects with John C Reilly's character. Even though it is a less ambitious film from writer director Paul Thomas Anderson, it shows the brilliance he has with writing characters, especially stories about troubled surrogate father/son relationships that is so prevalent in most of Anderson's films. This film is easily the best of the first three films he did (Boogie night and Magnolia) and it showcases the talent and Brilliance that Paul Thomas Anderson would fully show in his later films.
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