Shannon Whisnant, a North Carolina salesman, bought an abandoned smoker grill at a storage auction, hoping to resell it for a few bucks. It was the buy of two lifetimes. Inside was a severed foot, a shock Whisnant dreamed he could spin into a fortune, if only its owner -- "birth owner," Whisnant specifies -- didn't want it back. One-legged John Wood, a rich kid turned drug addict, lost the limb in a plane crash that also killed his dad. Now he'd lost it twice, to a huckster who hawked "Foot Man" T-shirts, ordered the vanity license plate FTSMOKER, and beamed, "I've always been famous. It's just now people are finding me." Whisnant's a jerk. But he does have a receipt.
Most docs are lucky to have one wild character. The phenomenal Finders Keepers has two. Whisnant and Wood are so quotable, you'd think Mark Twain wrote their words. When their custody battle becomes local news, Whisnant growls that Wood "was born with a silver crack pipe in his mouth." Finders Keepers indulges their redneck quirks: a showdown outside the Dollar General, the time Wood hid the femur at a Hardee's. Yet directors Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel recognize that the men themselves aren't laughing. To Wood, the leg is his last connection to his larger-than-life father. To Whisnant, the leg is his last shot for glory. Recalling the tabloid photographers who shouted his name, Whisnant cries with joy. Emotionally, if not legally, viewers will likely side with sad-eyed Wood. Still, Finders Keepers sees the tragedy in Whisnant's egomania. As he agrees to a tacky reality show, we realize he's peddling something more valuable than a leg -- he's selling his soul.