Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves review – a thoroughly ripping yarn
This adaptation of the popular tabletop role-playing game boasts Guardians of the Galaxy-style energy and irreverence.
Taking a whole bunch of leaves out of the Marvel playbook, this knockabout fantasy from the directors of Game Night, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, boasts Guardians of the Galaxy-style energy and irreverence as a motley crew get a crack at redemption. In Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, canny casting, imaginative visuals and a script unafraid to poke fun at genre traditions combine for a thoroughly ripping yarn.
Rebooting the D&D franchise might seem an unenticing prospect given that the last time the tabletop role-playing game was brought to the big screen was a less-than-impressive effort in 2000. Starring Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch and Bruce Payne, it was both a critical and commercial flop, though spawned a made-for-TV sequel and direct-to-DVD third instalment.
With influences including The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the Indiana Jones saga this time round, Daley and Goldstein (along with fellow screenwriter Michael Gilio) broaden their film’s appeal considerably beyond the game and the original trilogy’s fanbase.
Chris Pine brings the charisma and Michelle Rodriguez the might as our intrepid antiheroes Edgin, a bard and former Harper, and Holga, a barbarian who has been exiled from her tribe. After escaping from prison, the affable pair team up with so-so sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and shape-shifting druid Doric (Sophia Lillis).
Together, they plot to liberate Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) from the care/clutches of the gang’s former associate Forge (Hugh Grant). Forge is a con artist who has risen to become Lord of Neverwinter with the help of red wizard Sofina (a fierce and brooding Daisy Head), a right-hand woman with her own shadowy agenda.
More like this
Goldstein has stated that, though the film doesn’t take itself seriously, it is not intended as a spoof of the much-obsessed-over source material and other fantasy fare. There are, however, moments where it does play that way, with Honour Among Thieves at the very least acting as a refreshing counterpoint to the recent Lord of the Rings series The Rings of Power.
Through the humourless, morally superior paladin Xenk (amusing work from Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page, who nicely complements Pine), the script affectionately ridicules the pomposity of such characters, along with their tendency toward flowery language and convoluted explanations. There’s also a cameo from an A-lister as a Hobbit-like creature, which is similarly played for laughs.
And yet there’s enough earnestness in the group’s quest and attention to detail in the world-building for Honour Among Thieves to have appeal beyond its comedic tendencies. At well over two hours, it’s not as tight as it could have been, yet the action is exciting, the spectacle enchanting and there’s plenty of variety in the heavily CG visuals.
An attempt to sneak a portal disguised as a painting into a vault makes for an ingeniously executed heist, while billowing red smoke atmospherically accompanies the evildoing, and a conversation with corpses delivers some Sam Raimi vibes.
But the real triumph is the film’s ensemble. Rodriguez and Pine are an instantly appealing double-act, with her awesome physicality and withering delivery a winning contrast to his slightly smug quippery, fight-dodging and lute-strumming. There’s nice work from Smith and Lillis too, yet Grant steals the show as the unapologetically roguish Forge; the actor continues his screen reinvention from bumbling and benign to taking on roles with a nastier edge (see The Undoing and A Very English Scandal).
He keeps things light here by channelling his Paddington 2 baddie Phoenix Buchanan, as Forge lays out his self-serving, friendship-betraying plans with weaselly wit and charm. If the adventure is easy to get swept up in and the setting nicely realised, it’s these characters that you’ll be itching to see again.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is in UK cinemas from Friday 31st March 2023. If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide and Streaming Guide or visit our Movies hub for all the latest news.