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October 4, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons Honor Among Thieves Review: Swashbuckling Fun

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“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” possesses many plot machinations, but their sordid intricacies are the least of the viewer’s concerns. All that really matters is the film’s airtight set-up, which throws together a ragtag cast that cleverly resembles the average D&D party. Chris Pine leads the group as Edgin, a bard who turned his back on being a hero to better provide for his family as a thief. But that heel turn led to the death of his wife at the hands of a Red Wizard, a subsequent heist designed to bring her back to life, and an ensuing prison sentence with his partner-in-crime and main muscle, Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). The rest of their crew splits up with them behind bars. Middling sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) strikes out on his own, to little success. But Forge (Hugh Grant), a rogue, cons his way into becoming the Lord of Neverwinter, a position of profound power. He uses his powers of deception to turn Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) against him, so that he can have a youngling to manipulate in his own image. Edgin and Holga manage to break out of captivity and set about getting the gang back together to free Kira and hopefully retrieve the arcane MacGuffin they were after in the first place. This reunites them with Simon, and also sees them recruit a shape-shifting druid (Sophia Lillis) and a hunky paladin (Regé-Jean Page). 

These heroes encounter all manner of fantasy trappings, from wild mythological creatures to visually arresting magic spells to the realm’s complex rules and limitations. Beat for beat, the narrative mimics the flow and process of a game of D&D, with Goldstein and Daley acting as apt Dungeon Masters, pitting each of their key players against their fears and insecurities. As a result, the character arcs are more than a little rote. But this isn’t a handful of friends with bespoke character sheets and dice-rolled attributes — it’s a film populated with talented actors who bring their own considerable charisma to these cookie cutter archetypes. Pine avails himself the best, bringing everything that made his James Kirk such a stand-out of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” Rodriguez shines as his straight man foil. Grant has a ball chewing up as much scenery as his stomach will digest, while Smith provides a level of sincerity that is remarkably endearing.

If you’re in search of something truly substantive within the genre, you might be better suited to revisiting Peter Jackson’s many Tolkien adaptations. “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” delivers primarily on popcorn thrills and playful banter, which is refreshingly less worn-out than the many quippy flicks aimed at the comic-con market. This might sound like damning the film with faint praise, but given the execution, it’s a genuinely pleasant surprise.

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