Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves does the tabletop RPG (and its genre) right

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Justice Smith plays Simon, Chris Pine plays Edgin, Sophia Lillis plays Doric and Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures. // Courtesy Aidan Monaghan

As a property, Dungeons & Dragons has historically had a less-than-great track record of adaptation. According to Twitter—and the number of friends who looked at me askance when I mentioned there was a new D&D movie on the horizon—the world hasn’t forgotten yet about the 2000 big-screen debacle starring a paycheck-seeking Jeremy Irons and also Marlon Wayans as a guy named Snails. 

Fortunately, the writing-directing team of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (the guys who gave us the endlessly quotable surprise hit Game Night) are old hands at thwarting expectations. Their take on the tabletop classic, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, is a fun adventure romp that works whether or not you’ve played a campaign but has extra fun in-jokes for seasoned adventurers.

When we first meet thieves Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), they’re in prison for attempting to steal a valuable relic after a job for their wizard client Sofina (Daisy Head) went wrong. After they break out, Ed and Holga learn that their former partner Forge (Hugh Grant) has gone legit and is now the lord of the affluent port city of Neverwinter. 

Forge, however, is no longer the genial colleague he once was. He’s taken over the care of Ed’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), turning her against her father, and is using Sofina (who has ulterior motives) to keep himself in power. Ed and Holga plan to bring Forge down by breaking into his castle vault during a lucrative tournament. Doing so requires the help of their sorcerer compatriot Simon (Justice Smith), along with Doric (Sophia Lillis)—a shape-shifting druid rebel. They also get help along the way from Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a lawful-good paladin.

Honor Among Thieves gets a lot of mileage from using the game as a knowledge base to draw from rather than making its mechanics explicit. This is, first and foremost, a fantasy adventure, but certain elements—for instance, character types, skill levels, or alignments—have extra resonance if you’ve played D&D. Page’s Xenk is a perfect example of this. He radiates non-playable character energy while describing a complicated bridge crossing maneuver (which the characters, like many an impatient player, wholly ignore and immediately screw up), and again when he leaves the group, departing the scene in a perfectly straight line that takes him right over a boulder.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Chris Pine plays Edgin and Regé-Jean Page plays Xenk in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures. // Courtesy Aidan Monaghan

Page’s good-humored performance indicates the cast’s energy as a whole. Pine has long excelled at playing clever, buffoonish charmers, and his Ed is no exception. Rodriguez’s tough love vibes serve her well as Holga, and she and Pine bounce well off each other. As Forge, Grant continues to lean into his post-Paddington 2 “villainous cad” period with delightful aplomb. He’s not so much chewing the scenery as taking snooty, discerning nibbles and commenting on how much better it all is for him being there (this is not a criticism).

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ self-aware humor, combined with thoughtful backstory and actual character arcs, is well-balanced and feels accurate to the experience of playing a campaign with a group of friends. Daley and Goldstein also have fun exploring the diverse people and magical creatures that make up the Dungeons & Dragons universe, from elves to dwarves to orcs to gelatinous cubes. Game Night fans will appreciate the jokes and ensemble dynamic. D&D fans will appreciate the knowing references and commentary. And if you’re just a fantasy fan looking for a couple of hours of escapism, the vibrancy and swashbuckling adventure should suit you just fine.

Categories: Movies