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In his 1999 book “Tokyo Underworld,” Robert Whiting told the real-life story of Nick Zappetti, a former American GI in postwar Japan who becomes embroiled in a world of yakuza and corrupt politicians. Subtitled “The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan,” it had all the hallmarks of a good film, though despite passing through the hands of DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Paramount and HBO, it never made it to the screen.

Not in the way its author intended, at least.

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