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Review: Hard Eight

Movies like “Hard Eight” are the ones that show us real people with their own rules to live. People who think before they act, and never make the same mistake twice. The movie shows us dedication, passion, and the importance of experience in life, the importance of personal experience, and living according to the past experience we all have.

The movie is not only good because of the idea it stands for, but for the acting cast, and how they managed to deliver the free spirit to us. The story about Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), and John (John C. Reilly) begins with a single look, a cup of coffee, and a cigarette. Why? well, perhaps this is the main question, which you shall be looking for an answer to throughout the whole movie.

The face of the main character is very lined while lighting up the cigarette. He has a clear expression that he has been living the casino life forever now. The deep voice gives the impression that he knows what he thinks and says what he believes. And then, there is John, an unshaved young man, with the urge for helping hands and the right way in life.

The movie plot

Sydney has been gambling for almost his whole life. He knows the topic almost as well as he knows himself. This is very logical, as gambling has become an irreversible part of his life. But, Sydney decides to share his knowledge and experience with John. He basically raises him in the industry of gambling, making another, younger version of himself, with the same style, taste in drinks, and even talking manner.

John turned out to be at the right place, at the right time. He needs $6,000 to bury his mother and has lost everything. Step by step, Sydney teaches him some ropes, like how to start with $150 and recycle it through the casino cashier cages until he seems to have spent $2,000 in the casino, and is given a free room. This opening sequence is quietly fascinating, especially knowing the fact that this movie is definitely the kind that teaches you how to get away with something.

Two years pass. Sydney and John are still friends, John dressing like Sydney and even ordering the same drinks. We begin to understand more about the older man. He is a gentleman, with a deep courtesy. He watches the waitress Clementine, who is played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who also flirts with a table of drunks, and asks her if she has to do it in order to save her job. Soon after that, John and Clemence become a couple, though she keeps seeing her side chicks.

Recycling through the cashier and some other tricks are not new to the casinos. Some are even very skillful with tricking online casinos. This is a type of business for many. Sneaky people like Jimmy, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie do really exist and earn quite a lot in real life. According to this source, the statistics on using the tricking methods and strategies in order to earn another grand is not something new, especially to some Scandinavian countries. Nordic gambling rules are quite strict, this is why locals found several different ways of overcoming the laws and still gamble without governmental authorities noticing them.

Talking about sneaky people, it should be mentioned, that despite the fact that John and Jimmy become friends quite quickly, Sydney definitely is not in favor of this idea and does not trust Jimmy at all. Well, this is for a reason and you can see why in the movie. Some of the characters have their own skeletons in the wardrobe and with the movie twist, we can all witness the secrets as well.

The directing

By this point in the film, its writer-director, Paul Thomas Anderson, has us so hooked that we’re watching for the sheer pleasure of the dialogue and the acting. Anderson has a good ear. Sydney says precisely what he means. John’s statements are based more on hope than reality. Clementine says what she thinks people want to hear. Jimmy likes to say things that are probably not true and then look at you to see if you’ll challenge him. All of them live in the 24-hour days of Reno, where gambling is like a drumbeat in the back of everything they do.

Overall, while the plot is definitely good, and it can be named as one of the best gambling themed movies, it is not only about the plot. It is all about the emotions delivered by specific people. Those people live in a place and time which is not meant to be for them. They learn to hear and see, making them outstanding from the crowd. Sydney is a clear example of human nature and plays the cards of life very close to the vest.




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