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On Aug. 12, 1989, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano’s debut as a director, “Violent Cop,” was released in Japan. Kitano was already famous here as a TV comic and emcee, and was known abroad for his role as a brutal POW camp guard in Nagisa Oshima’s 1983 World War II drama “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.”

But when he took over as director of “Violent Cop” from veteran Kinji Fukasaku, who left the project due to a scheduling conflict, Kitano had had none of the usual education or training for the job.

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