In Hollywood’s continuing quest for IP, it’s time to roll the 20-sided die on Dungeons & Dragons, the beloved fantasy role-playing game. Of course, it’s not the first time this has happened. Jeremy Irons starred in a ropey adaptation back in 2000, one that spun off a couple of made-for-TV sequels. Before that, in the ‘80s, there was an animated series that doesn’t really merit repeat viewing.
Luckily, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a hoot – a comic action-adventure with swords, sorcery and Hugh Grant hamming it up. It’s directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who brought us that lively 2018 black comedy Game Night, and there’s something of the same energy here. Think Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven and you’re part way there.
Set in the Forgotten Realms, the thieves in question are Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), incarcerated in a remote prison following a heist that goes wrong. Double-crossing them was conman Forge Fitzwilliam (Grant), who formed an alliance with a powerful Red Wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head). Now this grasping toad is Lord of Neverwinter and guardian to Edgin’s daughter Kira, claiming that her father has abandoned her in pursuit of riches.
In truth, Edgin wants to get his hands on a resurrection tablet – to bring back Kira’s mother from the dead – currently held in Forge’s vault. After escaping incarceration, he and Holga reunite with wizard Simon (Justice Smith) and the shapeshifting druid Doric (Sophia Lillis). Helping them along the way is Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), an amusingly verbose but noble fellow, who soon leads the way as they tackle the Red Wizard’s minions and one hugely overweight dragon.
There’s a likeable charm to the cast: Pine is an appealing comic presence, Rodriguez brings real muscle to her role, while Smith and Lillis bicker/flirt amusingly. Page does himself – or his Bridgerton fanbase – no harm either as the swoon-inducing hero. Best of all, Grant takes the title literally, stealing scenes like there’s no tomorrow as the buffoonish cad.
Here, Forge’s hubris is such that he even has a giant hot air balloon with his face on it (all very cleverly used in the film’s finale). Before that, there’s an excellent moment at a graveyard with Pine et al interrogating the dead (a scene giving off real Sam Raimi vibes) and, among many references to the D&D game, an exciting chase through an ever-shifting lethal maze that sees them encounter a good old gelatinous cube. Smartly walking that line so that newcomers to this fantasy world and old hands who spent days playing the game can both enjoy, Honour Among Thieves is a satisfying romp. It’s a little formulaic in places, but on the flip side, it pulls some really weird moments out of its sack. Like the scene with Holga’s ex-lover – a bizarre-but-brilliant A-list cameo. In the Hollywood fairground, this ride will leave you dizzy and delighted.
- Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
- Starring: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant
- Release date: March 31 (UK cinemas), NME is hosting a special, free preview screening on March 30 in London – get tickets here