Picks and Pans Review: Benedict Arnold

updated 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

A&E (Mon., Jan. 13, 8 p.m. ET)

"If your great umbrage would care to meet my high dudgeon at 12 paces, I would be happy to entertain you at dawn," says hot-tempered Benedict Arnold (Aidan Quinn) to insolent Congressman Joseph Reed (Stephen Hogan) after they exchange unpleasantries. That's a mighty fancy way of challenging a fellow to a duel, but it typifies the high-flown dialogue in this sturdy drama about the infamous traitor of the Revolutionary War. The tone of the script, however faithful to 18th-century speech, can seem almost laughably fustian. Nevertheless the film will hold you because passion, intrigue and betrayal are never out of date.

Quinn, in a stops-out performance, plays Arnold as an impetuous, egotistical warrior who feels ill-paid for his courage in the patriots' cause. After he falls for British loyalist Peggy Shippen (Flora Montgomery), she talks him into a change of allegiance that leads to a plot against his old friend George Washington (Kelsey Grammer). Though he sometimes appears to be posing for the dollar bill, the Frasier star shows surprising fire when Washington learns of Arnold's treachery. After all the flowery words, there's extra power in a mild profanity.

BOTTOM LINE: Nothing revolutionary but worth seeing

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