Sydney (Philip Baker Hall – Midnight Run) is a poker-faced professional gambler with a soft heart for a hard luck story. He plays guardian angel to unlucky John (John C. Reilly – Days of Thunder) and a hooker, Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow – Seven), whom he grows to love like family. When John’s and Clementine’s honeymoon night leads to a disastrous hostage situation, Sydney takes care of it, as usual. But when slick casino pro Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction) threatens to reveal a secret from Sydney’s past that could destroy his relationship with the newlyweds, Sydney decides to hedge his bets and not leave anything to chance. –Sony Pictures
With his 1997 film Boogie Nights, then-27-year-old director Paul Thomas Anderson took his place on the list of Hollywood wunderkinds. Boogie Nights was hailed by one critic as the first great film about the ‘70s to come out since the ’70s. Anderson was born in Studio City, California, on January 1, 1970. After a brief stint as an English major at Emerson College and an even shorter stint at the New York University Film School, Anderson began his career as a production assistant on various TV movies, videos, and game shows in Los Angeles and New York. In 1992, he made his short Cigarettes & Coffee, and after it was screened at the 1993 Sundance Festival, he made his first full-length feature, Sydney — retitled Hard Eight, which despite its ’A’ festival recognition went unnoticed by the audiences. Later on Anderson did Boogie Nights, which received three Oscar and two Golden Globe nominations,and was widely hailed as one of the best films of the year, if not the decade. His next film… read more
After all, Hard Eight comes short in terms of storytelling and narrative ends. However, the question is: how Paul Thomas Anderson can still attach us on a film like this? Perhaps with his mastering technique in filmmaking. Perhaps with his self-restraining approach in expectations.
Much like in The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson shows his talents in producing some fine performances and crafting an intriguing first act, but the film has nowhere to go and unfortunately stagnates both narratively and thematically for the remaining runtime.
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