Once the domain of a modest group of aficionados, the roleplaying game of Dungeons and Dragons has lately become a worldwide obsession, which perhaps accounts for this big-budget production. It’s presumably been given the ‘Honour Amongst Thieves‘ suffix to differentiate it from the dismal Jeremy Irons movie of 2000, which attempted to walk the same path, but failed to endear itself to critics and viewers alike. Thankfully, this incarnation, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, is a different kind of beast entirely. It’s actually great fun.
It’s the story of Edgin (Chris Pine) a former Harper (or minstrel), more recently a professional thief. When we first meet him, he’s languishing in prison, sharing a cell with his BF, Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), a kick-ass warrior who never wastes words when her sword can do the talking. She’s also very fond of potatoes. Edgin has a desperate plan to escape from captivity because he needs to get back to his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), who he’s left in the care of his former friend and fellow-thief, Forge (Hugh Grant), after the tragic death of her mother.
Once out of prison, Edgin hears about a mystical Tablet of Awakening, which has the power to bring a dead person back to life. For obvious reasons, he resolves to find it. So he heads for the city of Neverwinter, where Edgin is now the head honcho, supported by his advisor, the powerful Red Witch, Sofina (Daisy Head). Along the way, Edgin and Holga recruit failed magician Simon (Justice Smith) and shapeshifter Doric (Sophia Lillis) to their cause – and, with the help of the mysterious and ridiculously handsome Xenk (Rége-Jean Page), they set off on a long and complicated quest to find an ancient bronze helmet that will help them locate the fabled tablet. Suddenly, we’re in a heist movie.
If this all sounds horribly generic, relax. Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Amongst Thieves can most accurately be described as a romp, fuelled by a clever script that has a massive trump card up its sleeve, which it’s not afraid to use. Whenever events threaten to become too po-faced, too pompous for comfort, out come the jokes, the quips and the sarcastic asides. It works like a dream.
Yes, there are CGI beasts, including a fearsome dragon; there are huge battles and eye-popping special effects sequences; there are witches and ogres and long-leggedy beasties – but the creators of the film are canny enough not to linger too long on any of these details, allowing Edgin’s quest to move on to the next hurdle, the next obstacle, the next massive punch up. There’s a second trump card in the familiar form of Hugh Grant, who, as the villainous, double-crossing Forge, offers yet another character study of the kind he’s been revelling in ever since his renaissance in Paddington 2. He’s not the only good thing here, but he’s definitely one of the best of them.
It all builds confidently to a genuinely heart-warming conclusion that rounds off the adventure in style. Stay in your seats long enough for a brief, but funny post credit scene!
I’ve no idea if this will appeal to devotees of the game, but as an outsider, I find this D&D adventure a ton of fun.