July 07, 2003 12:00 PM

TNT (Sun.-Mon., June 29-30, 8 p.m. ET)

History’s big names are becoming Jeremy Sisto’s specialty. The 28-year-old actor ably played Jesus Christ in a CBS miniseries in 2000. Here he portrays the dictator of ancient Rome in a two-part, four-hour epic that’s impressive but not totally satisfying.

The forceful Sisto is effective when Julius Caesar is a young man on his way up, defying the despotic Sulla (the late Richard Harris in a brief but colorful performance) or turning the funeral of his first wife into a political rally. The star is less convincing as his character ages. (Caesar was in his 50s when he was assassinated.) It doesn’t help that the script fails to elucidate the conflict between the leader’s principles and his lust for power.

Chris Noth gives strength and a sense of irony to the role of Pompey, Caesar’s friend-cum-rival. But Christopher Walken orates listlessly as the conservative senator Cato.

BOTTOM LINE: Uneven but worth the time

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