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Hard Eight is a 1996 film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. There also are brief appearances by Robert Ridgely, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Melora Walters.

The film, originally titled Sydney, was Anderson's first feature; Hall, Reilly, Ridgely, Hoffman and Walters acted in Anderson's subsequent films. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.

Plot

Sydney, a gambler in his 60s, finds a young man, John, sitting forlornly outside a diner and offers to give him a cigarette and buy him a cup of coffee. Sydney learns that John is trying to raise enough money for his mother's burial. He offers to drive him to Las Vegas and teach him how to make some money and survive. Skeptical at first, John agrees.

Two years later, John, having gotten the money for the funeral, has stayed in Reno and become Sydney's protégé. John has a new friend named Jimmy who does security work and is attracted to Clementine, a cocktail waitress. John and Clementine get married, but Sydney gets a frantic late-night phone call. He arrives at a motel to find the newlyweds holding hostage a customer who refuses to pay for the services of Clementine, who moonlights as a prostitute.

Sydney handles the situation. He then advises John and Clementine to leave town and head to far-away Niagara Fallsmarker for their honeymoon.

After the two leave, Sydney is confronted by Jimmy, who demands a large amount of money. He knows something about Sydney and threatens to tell John if necessary -- that Sydney is the one who killed John's father.

Sydney acquiesces. He pays the money, but later he sneaks into Jimmy's house and shoots him.

Connections to later P.T. Anderson films

In the scene where Jimmy tells Sydney that he knows about the murder of John's father, he mentions that he heard about it via some other men, including "Floyd Gondolli" and "Jimmy Gator." These are the names of characters that Philip Baker Hall would later play in Boogie Nights and Magnolia, respectively.

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