Hard Eight (film)  

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Hard Eight (originally titled Sydney) is a 1996 American crime film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson in his feature directorial debut. It stars Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson.


Sydney, a senior gambler, finds a young man, John, forlornly sitting outside a diner in Sparks, Nevada. He offers to give him a cigarette and buy him a cup of coffee. John tells Sydney that he lost all of his money in Vegas and he needs $6,000 for his mother's funeral. Sydney offers to drive John to Las Vegas, where he helps John win the money. Two years later, John becomes Sydney's protégé. Sydney is calm and reserved, and displays a fatherly care for John, who is unsophisticated and not overly intelligent. John has a new friend named Jimmy, who does security work, and he is attracted to Clementine, a cocktail waitress in Reno. Sydney meets Clementine, and learns that she moonlights as a prostitute and is much less sophisticated than John. Although Clementine believes Sydney might want to accompany her, he wants to build a connection between her and John. Sydney asks John to show Clementine around the town.

After receiving a frantic phone call, Sydney goes to a motel, where he finds John and Clementine holding a tourist hostage, a client of Clementine who did not pay her $300. John reveals that he and Clementine impulsively got married, and Clementine prostituted herself to the tourist, who is knocked out and handcuffed to the bed. Sydney learns that John and Clementine have called the hostage's wife, threatening to kill him if they do not get the money. After finding Jimmy's gun, Clementine tells Sydney and John that they owe the money. She soon decides to leave the motel with them after they convince her. Sydney manages to calm the situation, advising John and Clementine to leave town for their honeymoon. While leaving, Sydney removes the evidence from the motel room.

Sydney meets with Jimmy, who tells him that the couple did not contact the police. However, Jimmy explains that he is from back east, where he heard stories of how Sydney killed John's father in Atlantic City. Jimmy pulls a gun on Sydney and threatens to tell John unless Sydney gives him $10,000. They go to Sydney's suite, where Sydney gives Jimmy $6,000 cash. Jimmy leaves the suite and John calls Sydney from a roadside phone to update Sydney on their honeymoon trip. During the call, Sydney tells John that he loves him like a son. Sydney sneaks into Jimmy's house, kills Jimmy and retrieves the money. The next day, Sydney covers a bloodstain with a shirt cuff at the diner.


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