A professional gambler befriends a luckless young couple, but when a secret from his past threatens that friendship, he decides to take care of the situation. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: R — Release Date: 5-AUG-2003... more »
One of the best DVDs, esp. if you like commentary tracks
Carl Glanville@aol.com | New York | 02/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Thomas Anderson is, by his own admission, a big fan of dvd/laserdisc commentary tracks, where, if you are lucky, you'll hear the director, actors, writers and/or the cinematographer of the movie you are watching talk about how it was 'all done'.Hard Eight, or "Sydney" as it is better known to the people that made it, is a superb example of what a DVD presentation has to offer. There is the marvellous widescreen transfer - the movie LOOKS great, then there are TWO commentary tracks, the first by P.T.A. and star, Philip Baker Hall on 'Audio 2', and the other track is a great combination (the first I've seen like this) where the director interviews cast and crew members himself (on the set during the production of Magnolia) - you get their thoughts and comments cleverly sandwiched in-between the movie's music cues - so you essentially get an isloated music track and second commentary on the 'Audio 3' track. The isolated music track is, in places, different to what actually appears in the film too.On top of this there are deleted scenes from the movie and footage from a Sundance Institute Filmakers Lab, which show scenes that were shot as an experiment/example of what the real film could/would be.PT Anderson's commentary tracks are very enthusiastic, honest and extremely informative. If you have any interest in filmaking this is a really good one!Oh, and it's a good film too."
An Important and Memorable Debut from P.T. Anderson
Michael Crane | Orland Park, IL USA | 08/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Talk about a more-than-impressive debut from a very important director, P.T. Anderson's "Hard Eight" hits all of the right notes at all of the right times. It's a film that's built around characters and dialogue rather than plot. It's a film that takes you for an unpredictable ride into the unknown and delivers a good time. Debuts come and go, but rarely do they come in top-form like this. A film noir filled with drama, humor and heart, "Hard Eight" is a very satisfying film that is enjoyable to watch.Sidney is an old timer who used to be a successful gambler. He stumbles upon a not-so-lucky John, who is pretty much broke. Sidney unexpectedly takes him under his wing and helps him get back on his feet. The two become very close friends as time goes by and as John's winning streak improves more and more. However, John's going to need serious help from Sidney later on, and it's something that's a lot more serious than money troubles in this very involving film noir that is both thoughtful and dark.As with the other P.T. Anderson films, I had no idea what to expect from this movie. And that's what's so great about him. No film is ever the same, and each film has a look and feel of its own. In no way could P.T. Anderson ever be a one-trick director. It is apparent that he has MANY tricks up his sleeves, and has only begun to reveal them to us.The film certainly stands out from other debuts. It's got a strong cast, a smart screenplay, and a certain direction it wants to take. The film is complex, but not because of the plot. It is complex because the characters themselves are complex. That is what's so unique about the film. You want to take the time to get to know the characters. Not for story's sake, but because you actually want so know what makes each character tick. The acting is superb, and I don't use that term lightly. Philip Baker Hall steals the show and certainly does know his stuff. John C. Reilly also gives it his all, which leads to successful results. Everybody else is great too, but it's clear that the movie is a success because of those two particular actors. Still, it must be said that Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson are also very impressive in the movie as well.The DVD has a few extras; not many, but enough to keep us happy. The picture and sound quality is really great. You have the choice of watching the movie in its original widescreen format or you can view it in fullscreen. Extras included are commentaries, trailers, a deleted scene, and Sundance Institute filmmaker lab scenes. Not the most explosive DVD package, but it gives enough to satisfy."Hard Eight" is a great film for many reasons. It's smart, involving, electric and powerful. This is not something to see if you're looking for a movie with lots of action, shoot-outs, car chases and so on. If you're looking for a smart film noir that's more focused on characters rather than plot, this is the film to check out. P.T. Anderson is an impressive filmmaker, and an important one as well. So far it's always been a joy to watch his movies. It may take time to get used to him, but once you give him the chance, he really grows on you."
An amazing debut
Evan Erwin | 06/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Thomas Anderson knew what he was doing. Back in the year-o-our-Lord 19-hundred-and-ninety-six, he made a small film called SYDNEY (It was the studios idea of calling the film Hard Eight). It featured a wonderful Phillip Baker Hall (who was again featured in Magnolia and Boogie Nights). As well as John C. Reilly (Magnolia and Boogie Nights again) as well as a wonderfully done Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. The script is just absolutely top-notch. This is not an action film. This is a character film, as is all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films. The cinematography (how the film looks) is amazing. Its not a cliche-ridden film as most movies are when centered around Reno or Vegas. You meet a man with an unknown past, find little facts about him along the way, and before its over, you're not sure whether it was better to know or be left in the dark.The story is that Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall)helps a down-on-his-luck guy, John (John C. Reilly). He takes him under his wing. Wonderful writing, action, and suspense follows. I won't give away too much. I like to get the surprises as they come.The performances are amazing, establishing Phillip Baker Hall (which P.T. Anderson wrote it for) as one of the best actors out there today. Samuel L. Jackson gives a surprisingly interesting performance, as well as Gwyneth.It is not Boogie Nights. It is not Magnolia. It stands on its own as a dwelve into the mind of a man with a sordid past and the sweet-and-sour need for redemption, in any fashion you can get it. The extras are very interesting (only ONE deleted scene? Are you kidding me?), the most being the Sundance Lab test-shots. Its actors just acting, little scenery, no music. Its raw and beautiful, the way these actors go from the rough video to the big screen.A definite must-see."
Please sir, I want some noir
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 08/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few movies can make characters seem entirely real, or convey a mix of feelings as subtlely as this film can. "Hard Eight" is one of those few. With characters that seem like real people, a sinuously twisted plot, and plenty of suspense, rain-darkened skies and shady characters.A former pro gambler, Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), stumbles across a young man named John (John C. Reilly) at a roadside restaurant; John is broke, embittered, homeless, and needs money for his mother's funeral -- money he doesn't have, and doesn't know how to get. Sydney makes him an offer: John will come to Vegas and Sydney will teach him how to gamble. Though John is suspicious at first, he soon comes to trust Sydney, who takes the young man under his wing and gets him a job.Two years later, Sydney also takes the young waittress/hooker Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) under his wing, giving her a place to stay, and letting her and John go out to have fun. But their day out takes a horrific turn when Clementine falls back into her old ways and sleeps with a jerk. When he won't pay, John takes him hostage, and turns to Sydney for help. After learning that John and Clementine got married, Sydney does bail his young friends out of their predicament. But then he comes face-to-face with Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), who knows -- and may reveal -- the shadowy secrets in Sydney's past."Hard Eight" fulfills the specifications of film noir like few modern films do. The overcast sky and constant rain hint at the dark threads running through the film. Adding to the feeling are the complex and secretive characters, the glimpses into the darker sides of human nature, and the fact that very little is what it seems. While you can guess from the first minutes of the film that Sydney has some secret motivation for what he does, you cannot even begin to guess it.The writing for the movie is phenomenal. One of the best things is that the characters, under pressure, act like real people -- they freak out, they say things they don't mean, they act stupidly or childishly. Yet it's because often they're scared (John), or lack confidence (Clementine); Clementine and John both cling to Sydney when they're in trouble, out of a genuine belief that he can make all right with the world. Hall is simply amazing as Sydney. His immaculate dark suits, gravelly voice and melancholy eyes are perfect as the haunted ex-gambler. Reilly does a good job making the transition from bitterness to trust, although at times he gets a little too hysterical. Paltrow is fantastic as the troubled prostitute whom John and Sydney are struggling to help in their different ways. And Samuel L. Jackson is delightful as Jimmy. Harkening back to an era with Bogart, Lorre and Greenstreet, "Hard Eight" is a solid, multifaceted drama with wonderful acting and a subdued pace. Sit back and let it soak in."
The brilliance of PT Anderson
E. A Solinas | 08/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and the upcoming Punch-drunk Love, PT. Anderson made Hard Eight nee Sydney. Hard Eight is just as compelling as his latter works, though incredibly different and a unique experience. It's a marvel to see the seeds of genius being planted onscreen. The main difference between this film and Magnolia and Boogie Nights is it's slower paced and less flashy. But it's never ever boring and the characters and dialogue are so compelling as is that camera wizardry would have killed this movie's intentions.The plot follows Sydney, a Nevada gambler, an old-timer, a gentleman. One day, he meets John, a drifter who needs 6,000 dollars to pay for his mother's funeral. Sydney offers him advice and soon the two form a father-son bond that is touching and chilly at once. Philip Baker Hall gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Sydney. He gave an incredible performance as Richard Nixon in Robert Altman's Secret Honor, but this is the role that most people will see and think "genius." John C Reilly is equally adept at portraying his character, a sort of dim guy with a good heart and a lot of love to give. The emotions that run through this film are true and touching. John needs a father. Sydney needs to clear his conscience and discovers something true in the process.When the titles roll up, you almost feel healthy having seen this beautiful film."