Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay)
Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L Jackson, F William Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Plot: Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.
Tagline – If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll see everything, win everything, and lose everything.
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Slick, but Not Glossy
Story: Hard Eight starts when Sydney (Hall) sees John (Reilly) looking dejected outside of a diner leaving Vegas, Sydney offers to give him 50 bucks to return and learn of him how to make the fortune he always wanted.
Two-years later John works with Sydney with connections including Jimmy (Jackson) that know how to work the casinos, with Sydney always making himself presented in a proper way, while John falls for a cocktail waitress Clementine (Paltrow) which sees the partnership start to hit a couple of stumbling blocks.
Thoughts on Hard Eight
Characters – Sydney has been around the casino scene for years now, he knows how to pick out the people that could help make him more money and in John, he sees his latest target. He does have a good thing going, he makes sure he knows the staff and knows how to clean up any messes that come his direction. John is a dejected young man that is on his way out of Vegas needing to make enough money for his mother’s funeral, he gets a helping hand from Sydney are learns getting himself into a comfortable life, until he meets Clementine, where he starts to make mistakes which put the whole operation in doubt. Clementine is a cocktail waitress that is desperately trying to get enough money to clear her problems, she is willing to go to extreme levels for this, which sees her putting partnership between Sydney and John in the air. Jimmy the reckless man that has worked with John before, Sydney doesn’t like him and his behaviour doesn’t help his case.
Performances – Philip Baker Hall is fantastic in the leading role, he is either in or narrating nearly every scene and does manage to dominate every time he is on camera. John C Reilly plays everything he needs to well, showing his naïve nature at times and how he got to the right position, keeping the nervous nature coming through. Gwyneth Paltrow great too, while Samuel L Jackson brings the character that does seem like he is on edge to life too.
Story – The story here follows an veteran of the casino scene that knows how to pick out the best people to get money without being caught cheating or using the casino for work, that is until things start to get out of hand. This story focuses on people rather than the way the two make money, which shows that not everybody is as clean as you think with secrets always being up people’s sleeves. This is an interesting story, though it never truly gets going on the levels other films might well have when it comes to dealing with the same subject matter.
Crime – The crime side of this film shows us just how the people operate on the other side of the law, which shows their own weaknesses to the world, while showing how they keep everything together.
Settings – The film uses the casino settings to show us how the shady people would be operating to make sure they stay on top of everything.
Final Thoughts – This is an interesting story even if it doesn’t reach the top potential, it tries to be slick and apart from the standout performance from Philip Baker Hall, we don’t get enough from the deeper story involved.