As prickly, self-indulgent tales of wounded machismo go, The Gambler is one of cinema's least obnoxious. That's far from qualifying as a back-handed compliment, since I find little to compliment about Rupert Wyatt's inert film, the artistic equivalent of small-dick syndrome. We're bombarded with monotonous discussions on the role of man in the modern world, not as a tirade against the emasculating effect that society has had on the male ego, nor as a rally cry to the men of America, but as a lament, an especially verbose lament. That takes an interesting spin when one tints it with The Gambler's protagonist's suicidal outlook, or perhaps it's that outlook that's tinted by the letdown that is William Monahan's would-be upstanding screenplay. To give Monahan his credit, he does perpetuate a personal style that's more incisive than its vulgar pomposity implies, but he's taken upon a casually derogatory service here, so sidelined are the women in The Gambler, and Wyatt - who is a talented director - shows no evident understanding of how to delineate the ideas buried within the dialogue. The general approach seems to be to outline what may be a man's final week alive as a wild ride to an inglorious end; star Mark Wahlberg can only deliver there what his innate charm permits for (a substantial amount, certainly). Wahlberg is more dedicated to delivering his take on a depressed, indebted, masochistic maniac in everyman's clothing - a take that appears to skim past the screenplay's skin-deep wounded machismo routine and discover those depths that Rupert Wyatt misses. Greig Fraser's cinematography is forgettable; soundtrack choices are so brutally obvious that they distract from what's on the screen - they're like instant kitsch, and very unbecoming of this film.