The latest movie villains -- What's cool about the evil folks from ''Lethal Weapon 3,'' ''Patriot Games,'' and ''Batman Returns''

While the fall of communism gave East Europeans their freedom, it robbed Hollywood of its mainstay of bad guys. Now, in an era in which it has become totally uncool to villainize groups based on race, religion, culture, or geography, the movies are hard-pressed to come up with rogues we can hate without hating ourselves. Here’s a rundown of the latest criminal element.

Villain: The Penguin in Batman Returns.
Modus Operandi: Wages twisted mayoral campaign.
Motive: To claim his birthright.
Weapons: Uzi-toting clowns, missile-packing penguins.
Cool Ranking: Totally Arctic. Pro-animal liberation.

Villain: Retired LAPD cop gone bad in Lethal Weapon 3.
M.O.: Steals police- confiscated firearms, sells them to street youths.
Motive: Cold cash.
Weapons: ”Cop killers”-bulletproof-vest-penetrating shells.
Cool Ranking: Chilling, right out of today’s headlines.

Villain: Renegade faction of the IRA in Patriot Games.
M.O.:Terrorist attack on Royals (political); vengeful stalking of American family at home (personal).
Motive: The British Empire thing; revenge for brother’s murder.
Weapons: Car bombs.
Cool Ranking: Room temperature. Villains are not IRA-approved, thus avoiding whole uncool political issue.

Villain: Weyland-Yutani, a.k.a. ”The Company” in Alien3.
M.O.: To preserve deadly alien at all costs.
Motive: Use of alien in biological warfare. Weapons: The alien itself.
Cool Ranking: So not, it’s hot. The first ”Company” man we see is Asian. A bad choice whether it’s active Japan bashing or not.