I have fond memories of watching this movie with my father when it was a relatively new release movie. I was about 8 years old at the time. I can't remember if I had seen the original movie before or after watching Kickboxer 2, and that may potentially be the reason why I prefer this movie to the original, but it is just a movie that has stuck with me throughout my entire life to date.
Sasha Mitchell is an actor that I gravitate towards. He's not a particularly gifted actor but he's just someone I enjoy watching on the screen. He plays David Sloan, a younger sibling to Van Damme's character, Kurt. The cast in this movie is quite good with a lot of respected veteran actors such as Peter Boyle, John Diehl and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa to name a few. The original movie, while it is certainly a good movie, has some really goofy acting which I think is another reason why I prefer this movie, it's played on the more realistic side of things. That is also why a lot of others tend to dislike this movie because they were treated to crazy, mid-air split kicks and such by Van-Damme while this movie just tries to replicate more or less what you would see on television in a real kickboxing fight. For me, having more grounded, realistic fight scenes compliments the drama in this movie.
Moving on to Tong Po, the big, bad enemy. He is quite a terrifying character. He doesn't really talk, he moves like a cyborg, almost seems invincible as he often doesn't even bother blocking his opponents attacks and would rather just take the hits and then try to hit them back even harder. Compared to the original, he looks a little bigger this time and has less facial expressions which makes him more menacing without having to resort to scenes of rape to increase his intimidation factor to the audience. You just need to watch his first fight scene in this movie to see how bad of a guy he is really is.
With David Sloan being more of an everyday man, and not possessing the godly type of physique that Van Damme had, we've got a much more vulnerable hero this time around. And with Tong Po being as scary as ever, that's what makes the bout in the end more special for me because David isn't as strong and he also has the leg injury, so he is clearly defined as the underdog. I could not say the same for Van Damme in the original movie. Kurt was not an underdog when he fought Tong Po, which is substantiated by the kidnapping of his brother Eric to fix the match. I felt this made made Tong Po look weak, because it gives the impression that he couldn't win on his own. They avoid resorting to those tactics in this movie. This time, we're made to feel that David isn't good enough to beat Tong Po, and the bad guys feel the same way.
I know I'm in the minority here, but I love this movie.