The debut film from Paul Thomas Anderson, Hard Eight is a auspicious calling card for a major talent. John (John C Reilly) is a loser who is taken under the wing of the more worldly Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall), with the older man willing to show John how her can wrangle everything form coffee to hotel rooms for free with a little nous. Happy to take a Vegas casino for a ride, John learns quickly, but falling for Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) disrupts the two men’s relationship. Anderson pulls off a little miniature with Hard Eight, a confident story of real-world experience, delivers on a small budget that makes a virtue of the low-rent presentation of small lives. Long before Magnolia or Boogie Nights, Anderson’s feeling for his characters and unwillingness to follow conventional plotting makes Hard Eight a diamond in the rough.