Movie review: Hard Eight (1996)

Music can influence how you think, how you feel, how you see the world. Music can lift your spirits. Calm you. Or invoke feelings of sadness. Movies are the same way.

Hard Eight left a residue on me that I wish I could wash away in a hot shower. I know with time the feelings will dissipate. The space I am in will change. Hard Eight is not a movie that will uplift you. It is a movie that shows the hard, seedy side of gambling in Vegas. Professional gambling that crisscrosses prostitution and murder.

The acting wasn’t bad, though I wasn’t blown away by it. To be honest, I watched this movie because Philip Seymour Hoffman had a small role in it. I always enjoyed his acting, if not the roles he played.

Aside from the heavy feeling of dead-ends, wasted lives, and despair that the movie left me with, I was bothered by the plot. Or lack of one. I don’t really get the point of this movie. I watched as the ambiance around me swirled into darkness.

At least one question in my mind was answered near the end of the movie. Why Sydney befriended John and helped him get into professional gambling. Why John was like a son to him. Why he would help John no matter what. Guilt was eating at him. The need to try to make things right. But I think there was more. I think in time Sydney really did care for John and would do anything for him. Funny that John never stopped to really question why Sydney befriended him.

Rolling a hard eight is hard to do. An easy eight is much more common. We hear how Sydney lost a bet on a hard eight before. And we see him lose another one. Hard eight as the title implies that Sydney bet hard and won a large return. What was the bet? What was the return? John’s friendship?

Others describe Hard Eight as a crime thriller. Rather an odd label. The movie wasn’t a thriller. And we don’t know about a crime until two-thirds through the movie. I’d almost say it was a study in the human character, but I don’t feel that I walk away with any insights. Just a dark, dreary, damp feeling clinging to me. Time for some uplifting music to chase away the despair the movie left behind.


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