Movie villains are coming on cute these days. The sheriff in ''Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'' sounds as though he has worked at the Improv, and the bad guy in ''Highlander 2: The Quickening,'' acts as though he is hoping for a special on HBO.
As played by Michael Ironside, Katana, evil ruler of the planet Zeist, fights cute and kills cute. It is as though the producers, realizing they had a bomb at their disposal, tried to save the film by having the principals crack wise.
It doesn't work, but then nothing really works in this film, not even the special effects, which, after a time, become tiresome.
Zeist is home planet to Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who has remained on Earth, hoping to die the way all earthlings do, but Katana changes all that. By sending killers to take care of MacLeod, he gives the alien warrior new life, which is nice because until he is rejuvenated, MacLeod sounds like Marlon Brando doing ''The Godfather.''
Lambert's MacLeod is a hero on Earth. The ozone has disappeared, and he has designed a shield that protects the planet.
When Katana first appears, he rides a subway to destruction. Just having a little fun. Later, he confronts the men who run the Shield Corporation. They know it is no longer needed, but they don't want anyone else to know. They're making too much money.
Katana meets the board members and, later, when someone tries to put him out of the way, he says, ''This is no way to treat your first draft choice.''
Sean Connery plays MacLeod's mentor, a man who appears any time MacLeod needs him. As Ramirez, Connery also comes on cute.
Virginia Madsen is the earthling who becomes involved with MacLeod. She has some of the worst lines in the movie, but there are enough to go around.
''Highlander 2: The Quickening'' is showing at local houses. The first film, which appeared in 1986, was no winner but, bad as it was, was better than the sequel, whose only real distinction is that it was shot in Argentina.
''The Highlander 2: The Quickening''
* MacLeod, an immortal Scotsman, is threatened by the ruler of the planet he has left.
CAST: Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, Sean Connery
DIRECTOR: Russell Mulcahy
RATING: R (language, violence)
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes