Hard Eight, a.k.a. Sydney

Hard Eight, a.k.a. Sydney, is a great little gangster film, appealing to me in large part because it is very low-key and subtle, not really much more than an extended character sketch, and Philip Baker Hall is so completely believable as a washed-up, semi-retired hard case.

There’s one scene in it that completely befuddles me, however. It’s the scene where John is telling about the time a book of matches spontaneously ignited in his pants pocket. The best I can make of it is that it is foreshadowing of the sudden violence that is to come. It’s just such a strange scene, very out of place in a way, that I can’t help but think there’s more to it than a simple anecdote.

Anybody else have any helpful suggestions?

Okay, as a fall-back position, I’ll settle for anyone who’s actually heard of this movie before. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen the movie, but don’t remember the scene you’re thinking of. Guess I wasn’t paying that close of attention.

On the movie, I liked it well enough. An enjoyable diversion for an hour and a half. The main problem I had with it, though, was that John C. Reilly and Gwyneth Paltrow’s characters were so incredibly stupid. I know they were supposed to be young and somewhat dysfunctional, but man, stop acting so stupid! It really detracted from me empathizing with them in anyway.

Of course, this is Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film. It’s also his shortest. I would recommend it to anybody who liked Boogie Nights and Magnolia. “You’ll like it and you don’t have to sit still for three hours!”

I just wish those two characters could have been a little more intelligent. . .


I saw most of this movie. It had a quirky charm until the motel scene, when it turned utterly stupid. I turned it off and went to bed.

I mean, the Sydney character comes to the motel to help his young pal out of a jam; he tries to calm everyone down, minimize the damage, and make everyone act sensibly; then, when the unconscious – but thank God, still living – guy on the bed starts to waken as the three of them are almost out of the room, what does Mr. Level-headed-let’s not-make-this-worse-than-it-already-is do? He whacks the guy on the head with the butt of a gun! Yeah, right. That’s when I went to bed.

It seemed like they came to the end of the written script and someone said, “Hey this movie is cute and all but it’s kind of dragging. We still have a few more reels of unshot film. Let’s get a gun and some fake blood and improvise a scene to spice things up.”

Hey, I like the film and much prefer the original title (Hard Eight). Rented it a while back after I’d seen P. B. Hall in some other things. One of the most brilliant character actors around, IMO. Plus it’s got John C. Reilly and THE GREAT Samuel L. Jackson. What’s not to like? Er, well, The Paltrow, maybe, who is just as wan and earnest as in all her other movies.

Admittedly, the movie just kind of peters out there at the end, but the characters were so interesting, I didn’t much care.