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Hard Eight

There are lots of movies that manage to take advantage of the casino aesthetic in more ways than one. These movies are usually going to make use of the fact that casinos tend to be well-decorated areas that are already picturesque enough for a film. Some of these movies are about heists, and casinos are more glamorous settings for heists than liquor stores or some of the more common locations for heists in real life. Movies that are more strongly about the experience of gambling are much more rare, and the gamblers that manage to find any of them should appreciate them that much more as a result. Finding a Hard Eight movie review written by an enthusiastic gambler is not difficult.

There were plenty of great gambling movies in the 1990s, which is when the online gambling movement began and when the practice of gambling became more normalized. The movie Hard Eight was very much part of that cultural backdrop. The movie is about a professional gambler becoming a mentor to someone who wants to be able to learn how to be as skilled as he is. The plot becomes more complicated when the student falls in love.

To a certain extent, Hard Eight is still going to be more of a love story than a gambling story, which might be a problem for people who would have preferred that the movie was all about a mentoring relationship and gaming. Technically, the gambling element of the story could be swapped out for horse-back riding or nearly anything else, and it would only change the structure of the movie a little.

However, it does feature a character who had fallen on bad times at the beginning of the film and whose story arc is partly about getting out of those bad times by becoming a skilled gambler. This is a story line that is going to resonate strongly with a wide range of people who get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to gamble. People casually playing pokies online may not have the same experience, but they might still be able to relate to some of the emotions involved.

Beyond its content, Hard Eight does have a lot going for it from a technical perspective. The protagonist is played by the acclaimed actor John C. Reilly, and it's hard to go wrong with someone like him. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the love interest, and Samuel L. Jackson has a very prominent role as well. Philip Baker Hall plays the mentor figure, and while he may not be as familiar to younger audiences, he was an acclaimed actor in his own day. With a strong cast, Hard Eight was going to have a certain baseline level of quality.

There are plenty of people in the gaming community who love Hard Eight and rank it right alongside genre classics like Rounders. The romance subplot may not be satisfying to some people, but this is a film that still portrays the excitement behind gambling and the love of gambling effectively.

Published April 28, 2016

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