Kingpin was the second of a trilogy of films from Mike Walker about troubled New Zealand youth (the others were Kingi's Story and TV movie Mark II) Filmed at, and inspired by residents of Kohitere Boys Training Centre in Levin, the bros-in-borstal tale follows a group of teens who are wards of the state. Kingpin focuses on the bond between Riki (Mitchell Manuel) and Willie (Fafua 'Junior' Amiga), who along with the other kids are terrorised by Karl (Nicholas Rogers), the Kingpin of the title. It was directed by Walker, who co-wrote the script with Manuel.
The most refreshing aspect of Kingpin is the total lack of apologist preaching […]. It is a positive sign of Walker’s understanding and respect that he doesn’t make up facile excuses for them [the boys]. Tough minded it may be, but the compassion of Kingpin’s outlook is touching too.– Costa Botes in a review in The Dominion, 19 May 1986