Already down on his luck and unable to even afford a funeral for his mother, John (John C. Reilly) comes to the Nevada casinos hoping to reverse his fortunes. He can't turn things around himself, but finds a benefactor in Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), a professional gambler who takes John to Reno and shows him how to use the system to his advantage. The two men become inseparable, and two years later they're still working the tables in Reno. John finds a new friend in small-time crook Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), who challenges Sydney's influence. Meanwhile, Sydney takes a fatherly interest in Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cocktail waitress who supplements her income as a prostitute. Through Sydney, John meets Clementine and falls in love. Late one night Sydney gets a desperate call from John, who is at a cheap motel. Sydney arrives to discover a man unconscious on the bed, assaulted by John after refusing to pay Clementine for sex. When John makes another surprise announcement, Sydney tells him to take Clementine and leave town until the episode blows over. Jimmy threatens Sydney with a sordid secret from the past, resulting in a final confrontation between these two men. Hard Eight has some compelling characterizations, particularly a great performance by Philip Baker Hall. But this depressing, dark tale about troubled souls doesn't offer any hint of redemption or optimism, and consequently it will have very limited appeal.
With its sordid setting and tragic consequences, Hard Eight doesn't glamorize gambling. However, Sydney does tutor John in how use a few dollars to earn a free room at the casino, so there's a certain allure to these early scenes. Clementine's prostitution is not shown, but implied twice by her presence in hotel rooms. John and Sydney beat the man at the hotel in order to keep him unconscious, and there's blood on the bed. A man is shot to death, with bloody wounds visible. The film's dialogue, particularly in the latter half of the story, is dominated by 85 obscenities and over a dozen regular profanities. This language is the most disturbing element in a film that will be very objectionable to discriminating viewers.
The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 10203 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90067-6403
Many (11) times - Mild 3, Moderate 8
Many (85) times - (f-word 56, s-word 19, other 10)
Many (17) times - Regular 15 (JC 8, G-d 3, J 3, G 1), Exclamatory 2
Several times - Moderate and Severe (man handcuffed to bed and beaten - blood shows on pillow, car window shattered, gun threat, woman struck, man shot - with bloody wounds)
Implied twice by presence of prostitute
None; Near nudity with low-cut dress
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog:
Few times (passionate kissing, man talks suggestively)
Smoking, alcohol drinking
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