Friday, January 26, 2018

Movie Review: Hard Eight

My review of this film will begin my exploration of the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, one of my favorite directors. His first movie shows the budding talent of the young director as he uses actors that will reappear in some of his later films and exhibits his directorial skills. The film begins with Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) walking up to a diner and confronting a desperate young man John (John C. Reilly). He takes him in for coffee and offers to teach him how to make money at the casinos. John is skeptical at first but the offer seems too good to resist so he takes the ride and learns how to trick the casino into giving him a free room. Thankful, John continues to follow Sydney's example and two years later they are both living decent lives in the casinos.

Sydney sticks to his routine playing games like craps and keno while living in hotels. John has fallen in with the loudmouth security guard Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson) who strikes Sydney as trouble. John also has caught the eye of the cocktail waitress Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sydney has taken a certain interest in Clementine, wanting to help her out. The waitress often visits customers in their hotels and Sydney runs into her. He takes her out to coffee much like he did with John and learns about her life. He offers to help her out. She goes home with him but asks him if he wants to have sex with her though Sydney refuses, giving her clothes and let her spend the night in John's room. 

In the morning, John and Clementine are socializing so Sydney suggests John take Clementine out shopping while he goes out and gambles. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a brief role as a wild craps player who challenges Sydney to take a big bet on the hard eight but then fails to roll it. John calls Sydney later and asks him to come to a motel room. When Sydney gets there, John demands that Sydney promise to help them before he enters and Sydney wants to know why his friend is acting weird. John lets him in to find a man handcuffed to the bed and Clementine crying in the corner. Sydney questions what happened and at first John and Clementine don't want to explain. What eventually comes out is that John and Clementine got married in the afternoon but then Clementine picked up a client that night. The man refused to pay so Clementine called John to force him, which did not go well. 

Sydney cleans up their mess and sends them off to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. He is confronted by Jimmy who knows a secret about Sydney's past in Atlantic City. Sydney killed John's father long ago and all his actions appear to be from a sense of guilt. Jimmy threatens to tell John about Sydney's past if he does not pay him money. Sydney holds out but Jimmy is willing to wait for the payoff and finally Sydney hands over about six thousand dollars. Jimmy heads out to gamble but Sydney sneaks into Jimmy's house. He waits for the thief to return and shoots him dead. 

Hard Eight is the most surprising film of my revisit of Paul Thomas Anderson's work because I have only seen it once before and hardly remember the plot or the great look of the film. There are awesome shots of the casino as the camera follows the characters through their lives and mistakes. Samuel L. Jackson is already showing his immense talent on screen and his larger than life personality. Philip Baker Hall is great as the serious Sydney while John C. Reilly is establishing his bumbling persona. The role of Clementine is different than any other role I've seen Gwyneth Paltrow play but she still does a great job. This film is a great start for an amazing director.  

No comments:

Post a Comment