Hard Eight - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hard Eight Reviews

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½ August 29, 2017
PT Anderson's early work still dazzles. Some of the best work by character actor Phillip Baker Hall. Excellent for a small budget film.
½ August 16, 2017
Many mediocre directors would dream of having a movie like this, and yet, it is Anderson's less known and comparatively weak film which I highly enjoyed watching it second time.
½ July 24, 2017
Good movie, good pacing, good acting, main character Sydney played by Philip Baker Hall is very interesting to watch and so are the others. I also loved the movie's setting with Vegas and such and the casinos, I would recommend it
June 26, 2017
I Will Become A Filmmaker When I Grow Up.
May 24, 2017
It has solid performances and some fully realized characters. But the story isn't quite sure of itself, and ends up feeling like it was scrambled together after a five minute group brainstorm session.
April 16, 2017
Talk about dry, you'll need a drink to get this one down.
April 14, 2017
Philip Baker Hall is a bit of man crush of mine but this movie does him little justice.
December 10, 2016
A Scorsese-ish, character motivated crime drama that would landmark Paul Thomas Anderson as a future great filmmaker.
November 10, 2016
Paul Thomas Anderson's feature debut is a solid film anchored by a pair of superb performances from Philip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly. It's recognizably his work, while not really demonstrating the amazing self-assuredness of "Boogie Nights". Although the interference of the film's producers may have a lot to do with it, this one feels just a bit more awkwardly put together than his subsequent work. Anderson regulars Robert Ridgely, Melora Walters and Philip Seymour Hoffman all show up in small supporting roles.
½ November 1, 2016
This twisted faux-father-son story is poorly paced, but poignant. Like Michelangelo's test sculptures before David, PTA's first flawed feature gives a peek into the masterpieces that would follow. The new-age Kubrick sizing up his craft. 7/10.
½ October 9, 2016
Love seeing all the shots that would become known in PTA movies. The movie moves very slow, but I did not see that plot coming. Reminds me a lot of Jackie Brown (Sydney's like the Robert Forster character, Samuel L. Jackson's character, a character waiting alone in a house). Leaves a lot unexplained (Do they JUST gamble all day? That's it?! Are they scam artists? How do they make money?), but it's still a great movie.
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.
June 8, 2016
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
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!
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.
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