It's kind of funny to think that with all the organized crime films made over the years, you can probably count on one hand the ones set in the hyper-violent world of the Tokyo underworld. Luckily, Warner Bros. (and VP Dan Lin) are helping to address this oversight, and have purchased the film rights to Robert Whiting's Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan.

The true-life crime tale was published in 2000 and detailed the taped conversations between Whiting and a gangster by the name of Nick Zappetti. Zappetti came to Japan with occupying US forces after WWII, but stayed on to make a fortune on the black market. After a failed stint as a wrestler (and a botched diamond heist) Zappetti was deported, but returned illegally in the mid-60's to open a pizza place. For the next 15 years, Zappetti's place became the center of Tokyo's nightlife, and an integral part in the Yakuza's rise to power.

VP Dan Lin was given the book on a trip to Tokyo, and as luck would have it, the rights were up for option after the project had lapsed over at Dreamworks. WB wasted no time and hired Frank Baldwin to adapt the book for the screen. Baldwin already has the true-crime flick on the burner; The Art of Making Money with Philip Noyce for Dreamworks, but that project is still a long time coming.

Tokyo Underworld would seem to have it all: a dedicated producer who was responsible for one of the better gangster films of the last 20 years and great source material. As soon as WB lands their director everything should be on track -- might I suggest Martin Scorsese? After all, he was denied a Yakuza film once before, I think he's probably earned one of his own.
categories Movies, Cinematical