Sydney is a veteran gambler in his sixties who still spends his time at the casinos. When he meets John, a loser with no money at all, he sees him as a son and tries to help him. He takes care of him and teaches him all the tricks of his work. He also helps him to make a relationship with Clementine, a young girl who works at the casino as a waitress. John doesnt seem to be bothered by the fact that Clementine is also a hooker, but soon something happens that turns their lives upside down.
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A beautiful study of the intersection of character, environment, andpersonal history, displaying P.T. Anderson's great crossing of cool(brain,strategy, starkness) and hot (love, passion, sadness, etc.). With superbcameo by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Truly interesting from beginning toend.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a director to follow in today's industry. This is a good example why. This is a very good movie that didn't seem completely finished. Explanation...this was his debut for a film studio that didn't have complete faith in him. His production team took the reigns and forced this movie to be the length that they felt was ideal. But the character development of this movie really suffered as a result. The scope of the emotional trappings of the characters in this film were not fully realized. It was a beautiful surprise ending and the movie played out very logically, very real, and the end product was a very slick, personal film noir. There are some critics who would not change a thing about this movie. And maybe if I didn't know how well Anderson develops characters, I would not be so critical about this movie. Very good movie, slick plot, but it was unfinished.
(Spoilers) The film "Hard Eight" or "Sydney", take your pick, begins atthis little out of the way diner-Jack's Coffe Shop- outside Reno citylimits. It's there where Sydney, Philip Baker Hall, spots this lonelyand disheveled young man John, John C. Reily, sitting outside lookingas if he needs a meal and a place to stay for the night.In what seems like an act of kindness Sydney offers a startled andconfused John not only a cup of coffee and cigarette but also offers tohelp him make some money at the Reno Casino with this rate card trickthat he developed over the years.John who at first thought that the overly friendly Sydney was gay andlooking for action, with him, soon realizes that he's genuinely honestin what he's doing. Sydney also agrees to help John pay for hismother's funeral expenses, that amounted to $6,000.00, which was thereason he went to Reno and ended up broke, when Sydny found him,playing Black Jack and Roulette.The movie then goes two years into the future where we see John now a"Big Macher"-or big shot in Yiddish-at the casino who's now friendswith the head of security Jimmy, Samuel L. Jackson. Syndey who's stillaround helping John out gets very bad vibes as soon as he lays eye onthe so sure of himself Jimmy and for good reasons. Jimmy is on toSyndey in what he did in the past and is planning to blackmail him forit! It's also around this time that John gets involved with casinococktail waitress Clementine, Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he later marries.It's this combination of characters, Sydney John Jimmy & Clementine,that will set off a series of emotional and even deadly explosions forthe remainder of the movie.***SPOILER ALERT*** We later learn what's the reason for Sydney's astrange attraction towards John from his friend Jimmy himself! Jimmy acool operator from the east coast, Atlantic City to be exact, has thegoods on Sydney and is planing to blackmail him, for $10,000.00,inorder to keep his mouth shut! What goods Jimmy has on Sydney has to dowith John's late father who was involved with him back east!Slow moving with almost no action at all, until the last five or sominutes, "Hard Eight" or "Sydney" is about as good a movie about humanrelationships and gambling that you'll ever see on the both big andsmall screen. It's when Sidney is confronted with the truth, by Jimmy,that he's been keeping secret all these years about his past life as agangster that he's finally forced to resort to violence. Not only inpreventing himself from being blackmailed but from preventing his goodfriend John from knowing the truth about himself and the real reason hefeels so obligated to help him! We soon get to see the reasons why Sydney is what he makes himself outto be, without giving away the reasons for it, in why he goes so farout on a limb to help John and later his newlywed wife Clementine. Andthe reasons for Sydney doing that are about as honorable and unselfishas they can get!
Plot : John (C. Reilly) has just lost all of his money in Vegas and now he sits outside of a restaurant out in the desert. That is until Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) convinces John to come with him back to Vegas and become a professional gambler. Story : This is a character driven movie. Each actor plays their own character brilliantly and the twists of the story are that much better just because your so interested with these realistic characters. Sydney take cares of John similarly as a father would - the two have a good thing going on in Vegas , until two mysterious others enter the story. Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) part-time waitress and prostitute on the side. Then you got , Jimmy (Samuel Jackson) - one of John's friends that gambles with him , and knows about Sydney's past. Visuals : All the care that you are used to seeing from Anderson's future films - is all here. The movie like any of his films , are a parade of incredible shots and eye candy. But this being the huge character driven film that it is - leaves much to the actors. Their facial expressions and actions drive your emotions through the movie and I say they do a great job. Synopsis : A great movie about friendship - played out like a drama movie , but the characters are so entertaining that you can barley notice there is a mystery underneath.
Talk about a more-than-impressive debut from a very important director, P.T. Anderson's "Hard Eight" hits all of the right notes at all of the right times. It's a film that's built around characters and dialogue rather than plot. It's a film that takes you for an unpredictable ride into the unknown and delivers a good time. Debuts come and go, but rarely do they come in top-form like this. A film noir filled with drama, humor and heart, "Hard Eight" is a very satisfying film that is enjoyable to watch.Sidney is an old timer who used to be a successful gambler. He stumbles upon a not-so-lucky John, who is pretty much broke. Sidney unexpectedly takes him under his wing and helps him get back on his feet. The two become very close friends as time goes by and as John's winning streak improves more and more. However, John's going to need serious help from Sidney later on, and it's something that's a lot more serious than money troubles in this very involving film noir that is both thoughtful and dark.As with the other P.T. Anderson films, I had no idea what to expect from this movie. And that's what's so great about him. No film is ever the same, and each film has a look and feel of its own. In no way could P.T. Anderson ever be a one-trick director. It is apparent that he has MANY tricks up his sleeves, and has only begun to reveal them to us.The film certainly stands out from other debuts. It's got a strong cast, a smart screenplay, and a certain direction it wants to take. The film is complex, but not because of the plot. It is complex because the characters themselves are complex. That is what's so unique about the film. You want to take the time to get to know the characters. Not for story's sake, but because you actually want so know what makes each character tick. The acting is superb, and I don't use that term lightly. Philip Baker Hall steals the show and certainly does know his stuff. John C. Reilly also gives it his all, which leads to successful results. Everybody else is great too, but it's clear that the movie is a success because of those two particular actors. Still, it must be said that Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson are also very impressive in the movie as well.The DVD has a few extras; not many, but enough to keep us happy. The picture and sound quality is really great. You have the choice of watching the movie in its original widescreen format or you can view it in fullscreen. Extras included are commentaries, trailers, a deleted scene, and Sundance Institute filmmaker lab scenes. Not the most explosive DVD package, but it gives enough to satisfy."Hard Eight" is a great film for many reasons. It's smart, involving, electric and powerful. This is not something to see if you're looking for a movie with lots of action, shoot-outs, car chases and so on. If you're looking for a smart film noir that's more focused on characters rather than plot, this is the film to check out. P.T. Anderson is an impressive filmmaker, and an important one as well. So far it's always been a joy to watch his movies. It may take time to get used to him, but once you give him the chance, he really grows on you.
"Hard Eight" or "Sydney" is the first film by acclaimed writer/director PaulThomas Anderson of "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." I haven't seen either ofthose films. Several other users here complained that those who reviewedthe film positively only did so after loving "Boogie Nights." I haven'tseen it, so perhaps my opinion will be less biased.I have to say that "Hard Eight" has one of my favorite first half hours inall movies. Sydney (The wonderful Phillip Baker Hall) finds John (The alsowonderful John C. Reilly) outside of a coffee shop broke, and offers to helphim out. We watch as Syd shows John the ropes at a Vegas casino. It is aton of fun to watch, very well shot, edited, with great music too. Afterthis setup, the film fast fowards "Two Years Later" and while the firstscene after the jump is very strong, the film tends to drift and by the endhas grown quite odd and different from the film we started with. That's not to say the film is bad overall, in fact I still recommend it. Astwo seperate films the two parts may have played better. I personally wouldhave loved to see the movie continue the whole gambler's underworld aspectthat the first piece examines. And in another film, the second half mighthave fit better. Still it's a strong film, and I do intend to seeAnderson's other work.
This first film from Paul Thomas Anderson was overlooked by me and everybody else when it was released. Anderson's second film "Boogie Nights" got everybody's attention. Years later this film got some new focus, yet it is out of print and not available on Blu ray as I write this. I caught the movie on a rented DVD with a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack so Criterion, where are you?The story centers around an aging man named Sydney played with a quiet confidence by Phillip Baker Hall who would become an Anderson regular. He engages a desolate young man (John C. Reilly) at a truck stop in a remote part of Nevada. Having lost all his money, he accepts a ride back to Las Vegas with the promise that Sydney would stake him and show him how to take advantage of the casino's internal operations policy.A couple years go by and Sydney and John (Reilly) have become good friends. John also has a new friend in a sleazy, loud mouth "security specialist" named Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson) and later a waitress and part time prostitute called Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow). Anderson who also wrote the script, moves very slowly throughout the movie and we get an in-depth character study in Sydney, John and Clem. What is Sydney's motive for bailing out John and eventually Clementine both of whom are a little short of common sense?Jimmy remembers Sydney from many years earlier as a successful craps player who liked to bet the hard eight (two fours on the dice) and eventually figures out what is going on. He wants to cash in. There are occasions when the methodical pacing seems unnecessary but this is a strong film and a brilliant beginning for Anderson. He coaxes excellent performances from his stars and comes up with a satisfactory, violent conclusion.
P.T. Anderson dropped out of New York University's Film program in 1989 after attending only two classes. As a gag, just prior to leaving, he submitted pages to his screenwriting class from David Mamet's 1992 crime drama Hoffa to see what would happen. He got a C-minus. Anderson then went on to write his first major short film, Cigarettes and Coffee. It was shot on a borrowed camera, and funded by the money he saved from dropping out of NYU. It was also the short that would evolve into his first full-length feature film, Hard Eight. Like all of Anderson's films, Hard Eight is an intimate character study of an old-timer named Sydney (played by the brilliant Phillip Baker Hall) who approaches a down-and-out loser named John (John C. Reilly) and tries to help him pull himself together. Sydney offers to buy him a cup of coffee, lends him a cigarette, and then proceeds to give him advise on how to cheat a Las Vegas casino. Sydney's tips work exceptionally well, and John is comped with a free hotel room and pulled out of his slump and into good fortune and success. The question that must be asked at this point is: Why is Sydney doing all of this for John? Two years go by, and a few more characters fall into the mix, including a cocktail waitress and prostitute named Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a sleazy, ominous man named Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson). Sydney is a man who studies people, and Jimmy is someone that he knows is not to be trusted. His ability to read the kind of man Jimmy is reflects that there is more to Sydney than meets the eye, and that perhaps his reasons for helping John, and later on Clementine, are deeper and more complex than he would have you believe. Anderson films many slow-motion shots from Sydney's POV, displaying his tendency to examine and study those around him. He allows these characters to talk, think, and feel as he takes him time reaching the scene where Sydney's pretense is revealed.In one brief and intimate scene, Sydney's entire persona is unfolded, and his motives uncovered. He is a man who harbors immense guilt and loneliness, and in order to partially compensate for his past, and the demons that haunt him, he feels a tremendous obligation to help the son of his victim. He has had a great deal of time to think, and when Jimmy reveals that he knows the truth about his past, Anderson gives us the most significant POV shot in the film. Jimmy stares directly at the camera, a choice that is no doubt inspired by director Jonathan Demme, who uses this same shot in many of his films-particularly Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia-to emulate a sense of inferiority and trivialization. It makes us feel as if Jimmy is staring into our eyes, judging us just as he is judging Sydney, and I believe the shot is the turning point of the film. He says, "I know some things about Atlantic City", and from then on, Sydney is not the calm, collected, wise man that he appeared to be for the first half of the movie.Anderson and director of photography Robert Elswit, who have collaborated on every project, are able to create immense tension through the use of quick insert shots, which prove that authentic tension can be generated in the smallest details. One character handing something to another character, or a simple glance across the room becomes more suspenseful than explosions or gunfire, which recalls Hitchcock's theory that a ticking bomb under a table is more dreadful than a bomb going off. These are the best parts of the film, when the characters are trying to understand each other, exchanging fascinatingly real dialogue and honest reactions. Sydney's past, for the most part, is left a mystery to us even once the end credits roll, but there are many things in his personality that we into and draw inferences from. As mentioned before, Anderson really allows his camera to allow the character to think, showing us long close-up shots. Along with his habitual studying of people around him, the actor Phillip Baker Hall is able to pull off a tremendous job of suggesting the slightest touches of sadness and regret. As the camera pans across the room from Sydney's POV, it is clear that something is missing in his life, and I think that that something is family. He doesn't have a family, and while he is helping John out of guilt, he is also piecing together some semblance of a family. John is the son he never had, and Clementine is the daughter-in-law. He introduces the two of them, and they fall in love. Sydney provides a form of communication in the film to two people who would otherwise be lost, creating a family made up of people without families.I've researched and discovered that the title of the film was originally "Sydney". The studio changed it to "Hard Eight" in order to sell it better, and because Anderson really had no major previous work, and was just starting out, he acquiesced. "Sydney" would have been a more appropriate water, because it centers our attention on the character. This is a character study, and "Hard Eight" makes it sound like some kind of casino-crime thriller. There are casinos, crimes, and thrilling moments, but that is not at all what the film is about. I'm glad that Anderson has since had creative control on all of his work, otherwise Boogie Nights and Magnolia would have had silly, pun-induced titles like "A Star is Porn" or The People Connection. Or more likely they would have never been made.
This movie was razor sharp. The acting is top notch. I haven't seen a movie this excellent, and low-budget, with this few main characters, since Glengarry GlenRoss, and this movie slices that in half. Philip Baker Hall gives a knife-edged performance "worthy of an oscar nomination." Why the quotes you ask? Because lately it seems the Oscars given out for acting aren't about acting at all. I mean, was Russell Crowe really the "best actor" of 2000? I think not. Bottom line: Get this DVD, you won't regret it. It's the chronic.
The first thing one ought to know about the film "Sydney," originallyreleased as "Hard Eight," is that the former name is most appropriate."Hard Eight" sounds like a gambling thriller and this film is a veryfar cry from that. Craps just has a metaphoric role in the film."Sydney" is the name of the lead role and considering how this is anensemble, character-driven drama like nearly all of director/writerPaul Thomas Anderson's later films would become, that's a fittingtitle."Sydney" stars Philip Baker Hall in his most intensive role ever out ofthe hundreds he has had. Sydney is a puzzling character. All we knowabout him is that he used to make himself by appearing to be a biggambler and he passes that skill on to John (John C. Reilly) in thefirst part of the film. This is really the premise of the film and thenthings take a turn. The interest in the film is purely in itscharacters. From scene one, Sydney's motivation is unknown: he appearsvery morally enigmatic, always wearing a black suit with a white shirtand a black tie and never stating what it is he wants, only tellingJohn what to do. He ends up appearing as a father figure to John andhis girlfriend Clementine (Paltrow).Trying to understand Sydney is the film's only interest point.Otherwise, the film is rather boring. Such a small cast makes it seemlike it would be better off as a play. Thematically, the film is strongin the way that its characters and theme work together. This has alwaysbeen Anderson's biggest strength. His later films show a greater plotstrength in addition to the characters, which frankly this film lacks.Its beginning is rather misleading and superficial in making you thinkit might turn into a gambling/con movie with slick dialogue. The endresult is positive, but nothing truly special.
When I saw this movie on cable back in the nineties, I fell in lovewith it, especially since it was about Vegas. Paul Thomas Andersondirected this right before "Boogie Nights", and his incrediblescreenplay talent has never been better, and his outstanding directionthan in "Hard Eight". Philip Baker Hall, in an always impressivecharacter study, portrays Sydney who takes on a young John C. Reilly hefinds at a diner sitting outside on the steps away from Vegas, andteaches him the ropes of Vegas. His motives are not sure until the end,and his great confrontation with Samuel L. Jackson. Along the way,Sydney and John meet a waitress/prostitute, Gwyneth Paltrow, who isalso outstanding in this dynamite cast. Philip Seymour Hoffman has asmall role as a jerk at the craps table, that gets under Sydney's skin.The story moves along with some tremendous dialogue scenes, especiallyin a motel room, where John and Paltrow have kidnapped a client of hersthat refused to pay her, and this is after they had gotten marriedduring the same afternoon. Not knowing what to do, they call Sydney,who works as a cleaner to straighten out their mess as best he can. Thestory pulls you into the characters and why Sydney is doing everythinghe's doing. Tremendous movie in every respect, check this one out, Ihighly recommend it.
Before he became famous as the director of "Boogie Nights," Altman acolyte Anderson directed this intriguing indie about three hard-luck denizens of the seedy Nevada casino scene. Anderson's forte (like his late mentor's) is his feel for atmosphere and character, and here he builds "Eight" from quiet, somber drama to shocking neo-noir, especially once Samuel L. Jackson steps into the picture as a blackmailing thug. Reilly and Paltrow (playing boldly against type) shine as tragic casualties of their own low-watt brain cells, and Hall is superb as the heavy-lidded, avuncular gambler with inscrutable aims of his own. If you like a bit of Vegas sleaze with your slow-burning thriller, drop a dime on "Hard Eight."
A film by Paul Thomas AndersonThis was the first film by director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), and it seems to have improved with age. It has the slower, deliberate pacing that seems to be a P.T.A. trademark, and it is a dark little movie. The more I watch it, the more I find interesting about it. It doesn't quite pop off the screen the way Boogie Nights and Magnolia did, but I feel that this one is worth a look. This is the story of a man named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall). Sydney is at a roadside diner when he sees a man sitting alone outside the diner. The man, John (John C Reilly) looks to be incredibly down on his luck with no idea of what to do next. John doesn't even have a clue of what he can possibly do next. Sydney offers John a cigarette and a cup of coffee. He then offers John a hand to get back on his feet. Sydney offers John a ride to Vegas, fifty dollars, and offers to teach him how he can use that money to get a room. We see the beginnings of a mentor/student relationship. What we don't know is why Sydney is doing this for John. Flash forward two years. We are still in Las Vegas. John seems to be doing better and he is still with Sydney. The mentor/student relationship feels more like a father/son relationship. We are introduced to Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a waitress at a casino. She knows Sydney and seems to like him. She is worried about doing something wrong to disappoint John. We're now unsure about how Clementine fits into the equation, where she will impact the lives of Sydney and John, but we know she will. We are also introduced to Jimmy (Samuel L Jackson), a friend of John's. John likes Jimmy, but also seems to be led by Jimmy, overpowered by Jimmy. It is obvious that Sydney does not like Jimmy. For a good portion of the movie I was unsure of where the film was going, but I was very interested in how it was going to get there. I suspect that Hard Eight is not a movie for everyone, even those who normally like P.T.A.'s other work. You can tell it is an independent film (it does not have the polish you are likely to find when a studio puts up a larger sum of money), and it is a slow moving one. It also features some fantastic performances by Philip Baker Hall, John C Reilly, and Gwyneth Paltrow. I would like to especially note the work done by Philip Baker Hall: exceptional. The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. This is not a slick Hollywood movie, but it's a fine piece of work and an often overlooked one.
It's tough to belive a director could make something this goodfor a first movie. The plot moves slowly, but is interesting andslyly funny. The dialouge is truly sublime, P.T. Anderson has a great ear for the rhythms of everyday conversation and a good sense of humor as well. The acting is first rate. Phillip Baker Hall is one of the best actors alive, it is a travesty that he was not nominated for an Oscar for his work here (check out Altman's Lords of Treason (aka Secret Honor) for a classic Hall performance). John C. Reilly can play an amiable loser better than anyone and this is his one of his finest moments. I'm actually not much of a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but I was impressed by her against type performance here. Samuel L. Jackson is equally believable as a sleazy gambler who knows a destructive secret. The DVD of Hard Eight takes full advantage of the capabilities of the new technology. The widescreen version of the film looks great and the sound is crystal clear. The best part, though, was the commentary track by PTA and Hall. Both are intellegent and well spoken (though PTA has a bit of a potty mouth). I actually considered dropping out of film school after hearing this commentary, thinking "what can that cynical professor teach me that I haven't already learned from PTA", but I decided against dropping out. The second commentary track had some moments of insight, but was less focused. This is a truly unique and entertaining movie that should be seen by everyone.
Everything wonderful about this film gets flushed down the noir toilet. Brilliant actors (Paltrow, Jackson, Reilly) all portraying stupidity withthe just right flickering wattage. The beautiful old hood (a ronin orsamurai type) who can't provide the brains for the kids he loves, no matterhow hard he tries. Visuals of fine, pure simplicity within ambience thatcauses me to remember remarkable this-is-it Italian film experiences of themid-century. And the point is? Aye, there's the rub. Can't quite find theessential human spirit in the story. Too many sordid details distract? Tragic stupidity too deep a hole to climb out of?
A little slow for those with a shorter attention span. I'm suprised by how many reviewers thought the movie was set in Vegas(considering early on it states 2 years later in Reno). So it isn't a part of the Vegas craze. It isn't about the gambling so I wouldn't expect that. If you liked True Romance I think you will like this (minus a lot of the action, mainly the love story).
If you like things, you will be surprised to find that you will also like this movie. Hard Eight is a fine movie starring none other than Dr. Steve Brule himself, A.K.A. John C Reilly alongside some very fine actors such as Philip Baker Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L Jackson.There are two key scenes in this movie that you must catch. The first one is around the time John and Sydney arrive at the casino. They are in the hotel room and John has to put some shoes on. He has those velcro strap shoes and the camera takes a moment to watch him strap these on. Very important John C Reilly scene. Never forget this one.The other scene is later in the movie, Samuel L Jackson is sitting in his car wearing his leather jacket. Every subtle move by Mr. Jackson results in the twisting leather sound that sounds so hilariously great. Just listen to him shuffle around in his jacket in that car, it's amazing. Not to mention he has a great line shortly after this where he say's "You shot John's father in the face!".Classic moments.Practically a classic movie by now, over 10 years old.
Digital cable presents many great movies to audiences that would have no(moderately easy) way of viewing them otherwise. Certain channels, liketheIndependent Film Channel, contain just as many gags as it doespleasures.When people say Independent Film as a genre, the stereotype is a bunch ofpre-midlife/post-graduate aged students wearing black framed glasses withcosmetic greased hair and cigarettes crammed in a small room with areel-to-reel watching a bad film on a wall who applaud just because thecamera angles are tight, and it invokes thought.In this case, the thought is "Why would such promising actors subjectthemselves so such a filthy waste of 110 minutes?"This movie appears to have plots, but it could be summed up in a 30 pageshort story. Other than that, it seems to stand still and only observesomeunusual scenes. At the end, you don't find yourself enlightened,entertained, or relaxed. Only upset, and wondering "Why did I just watchthat?"Another one of those films that is hailed simply for the fact that it'ssobad. Don't get me wrong. The actors played the (bad) parts very well,andthe scenery and camerawork was great. That's a reason why I'm so upsetathaving watched this film. It was a pure waste of otherwise goodtalent.In short, the film is way too long for its own good. The plot goesvirtually nowhere, and most annoying of all, it hooks you in at thebeginning with interesting plot devices, but shuts you down very fast,andthat's only in the first quarter of the movie. In the last eighth of thefilm, it picks up again, only to abruptly end. Cut out the middlehour-and-ten and the movie is golden. The only flaw is, well, that theydidn't.Don't watch this film. Just because it's labeled independent doesn'tmeanit's free of useless crap.
Paul Thomas Anderson's first film, Sydney (titled 'Hard Eight' by thedistributors), has a story, but its more concerned about thecharacters, and how these actors play them. Like its inspiration,Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur, understanding who these peopleare in this seedy, desperate environment, is the key. The script isintelligent, and contains a truth that isn't found in most "off-beat"crime films. In fact, the crimes in the film, while not without theimportance to the story, is secondary to how these people are aroundone another, the courtesy, the un-said things, the mishaps, and thetruths. In tune with Melville, the film is decidedly European- thestory is quite leisurely, almost too much so, but in the charactersAnderson has created and fleshed out he has people we can care about.Philip Baker Hall, in a towering performance of professionalism (he'sone of those great character actors who practically wears the years ofhis life on his face, not to sound pretentious about it), is the titlecharacter of Sydney. He offers Jimmy (John C. Reilly, believable in arole seemingly more like himself than his Reed Rothchild in Anderson'sBoogie Nights) a cigarette and a cup of coffee, and then finds outthrough the conversation his mother's passed on. He offers up anintricate, but rewarding, way of making money in a casino withoutlaying down a card (the slots, and a different scheme). Flash ahead twoyears later (awesome transition, by the way) where Jimmy is withClementine (Gwyneth Paltrow, a good performance). Things seem to begoing alright all around, except that Jimmy has a violent (shownoff-screen, of course) run-in, and needs Sydney's help. But there'sanother secret that has yet to be told.All the little details of the story are accentuated by a directorialstyle that is usually peerless, and the tracking shots that have becomeparamount in Anderson's films (i.e. opening of Boogie Nights, walkingthrough TV studio in Magnolia) are as smooth and interesting asanything from Scorsese. The Vegas Muzak is a touch that adds, like withMelville, a cool kind of touch not at all un-like film-noir. It'sactually a thin line that Anderson is walking; how to make the Melvillestory's elements (an aging gambler past his prime, watching over theyoung people in their own messes, seeing the old turn to new) as one'sown. I think he's achieved that in the film with a sense of sinceritywith the characters dialog with each other. Perhaps Sydney has adifferent agenda than just being friendly. But Anderson wisely allowsHall to make the right choices with just certain facial expressions,what isn't said that counts. And the scenes with Samuel L. Jacksonbring out the kind of intensity, sometimes quiet sometimes not, thathallmark his best performances. Maybe not a masterpiece, but itcertainly isn't the work of an amateur, assured in his own script as adirector, and in the strengths of his four key players.
I just really liked the characters, in the movie, the story seems a bit casual but certainly not without chemistry in it (uprising also)