Hard Eight (film)

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Hard Eight
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Thomas Anderson
Produced byRobert Jones
John Lyons
Written byPaul Thomas Anderson
Music byJon Brion
Michael Penn
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited byBarbara Tulliver
Distributed byGoldwyn Films[1]
Release date
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$222,559[2]

Hard Eight is a 1996 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson, with brief appearances by Robert Ridgely, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Melora Walters.[3]


Sydney, a gambler in his 60s, finds a young man, John, sitting forlornly outside a diner and offers to give him a cigarette and buy him a cup of coffee. Sydney learns that John is trying to find $6,000 to pay for his mother's funeral. He offers to drive John to Las Vegas and teach him how to make enough money gambling to survive. Although John is skeptical at first, he agrees to Sydney's proposal.

Two years later, John, having won the money for the funeral and more, has become Sydney's protégé. John has a new friend named Jimmy, who does security work, and he is attracted to Clementine, a cocktail waitress in Reno.

Sydney encounters Clementine and learns that she moonlights as a prostitute. Although Clementine believes that Sydney might want to sleep with her, Sydney actually wants to set her up with John.

Sydney receives a frantic late-night phone call from John, summoning him to a motel. He arrives to find John and Clementine holding a hostage, who is a client of Clementine's who had refused to pay her $300. John reveals that he and Clementine had eloped. The tension is heightened because John and Clementine have called the hostage's wife to demand the money. They do not have a plan, and they have beaten the hostage badly.

Sydney manages to calm the situation, advising John and Clementine to leave town and head to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. After the two leave, Sydney cleans up the motel room to remove any evidence. He is then confronted by Jimmy, who threatens to tell John that Sydney had killed John's father, unless Sydney gives him $10,000. Sydney cannot pay that much, but gives him $6,000 instead, later sneaking into Jimmy's house, waiting for him to return and then shooting him. He returns to the diner where he met John. Sydney covers up blood on his shirt cuff.




The film, originally titled Sydney, was Anderson's first feature, and was expanded from the principal idea of Anderson's short film Cigarettes & Coffee (1993).[4][5] Hard Eight was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.[6] Hall, Reilly, Ridgely, and Walters have regularly appeared in the director's subsequent films, and the late Hoffman had a role in all but one released during his lifetime.


Paul Thomas Anderson has said he is working on a Blu-ray release of the film.[7]


Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, writing "Movies like Hard Eight remind me of what original, compelling characters the movies can sometimes give us."[8] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, "Hard Eight is not a movie that wants to make a grand statement. 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. And the acting is wonderfully understated, economical and unsentimental."[9]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 83%, based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10.[10]


  1. ^ "Hard Eight (1996): Company Credits". IMDb. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Hard Eight at Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ Conrad, Mark T. The Philosophy of Neo-Noir, 2009. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 081319217X.
  4. ^ Mottram, James (2006). The Sundance Kids : how the mavericks took back Hollywood. NY: Faber & Faber, Inc. p. 129. ISBN 9780865479678.
  5. ^ Waxman, Sharon R. (2005). Rebels on the backlot: six maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system. HarperCollins. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-06-054017-3.
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hard Eight". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Anderson, Paul Thomas (January 16, 2018). "I'm Paul Thomas Anderson, writer and director of PHANTOM THREAD, AMA!". IAmA. Reddit.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 27, 1997). "Hard Eight". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (February 28, 1997). "Suspense-Filled Puzzle Draped in a Dark Mood". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  10. ^ Hard Eight at Rotten Tomatoes.

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