This is not a subtle film. Not even a particularly sensible one. It's a straightforward, swaggering, two-fisted adventure tale of a type we don't really see any more. Modern action films are a little too self-aware to pull off the unabashed, wide-eyed enthusiasm of this movie.
John Wayne is Taw Jackson, an honest rancher falsely jailed by the machinations of Pierce, an evil mining baron who wanted his land. Kirk Douglas is Lomax, a hired gun who shot Jackson three years earlier at Pierce's behest. When Jackson is released from prison, he has a plan to steal half a million dollars worth of gold from the mining baron, but he needs Lomax - who in addition to being an expert shot is also an expert safe-cracker - on his five man team to do it.
Lomax has plenty of reasons (100,000 of them, you might say) to join Jackson's scheme, but the job is not going to be an easy one. Pierce's shipment travels with more than thirty heavily-armed guards, and if that wasn't enough, the gold itself is stored in an armoured wagon equipped with a gatling gun.
It even has its own theme tune. Like I said: not a subtle film.
Of course, when you're got the Duke and Kirk Douglas on the case, there's never really any doubt as to whether Pierce will get his comeuppance or not.
The War Wagon is brash, bombastic, and a little bit buffoonish. But I had a grand time watching it, and you might too.