File this one under "What the huh?"
The documentary Finders Keepers is a thorough, frequently hilarious and ultimately touching investigation of a legal dispute between two North Carolina men, each of whom lays claim to a severed human leg.
The first man, John Wood, is the original possessor of said lower leg -- meaning that it was once attached to his body, until doctors amputated it after he was injured in the 2004 airplane crash that killed his father. For reasons that will mystify many, Wood took custody of the surgical remains, and after mummifying the leg, stored it inside an unused smoker grill that he placed in a storage locker after he was evicted from his home.
Wood, who has struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism and homelessness, is the film's heart. His journey to overcome the setbacks of a hard-knock life -- among other things, he claims to also have been shot and run over at various times -- is the true subject of Finders Keepers. But there is another protagonist here.
Junk dealer Shannon Whisnant, is the, er, lucky guy who found Wood's appendage, in 2007, rolled up in a length of window screen, after winning the contents of Wood's storage locker at auction when Wood fell into arrears on his rental payments.
Now hold on, you're saying. Back up a second. We have a few questions.
Fear not. They all will be answered, along with some you haven't even considered. The documentary by Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel leaves no stone unturned, thanks largely to Wood and Whisnant, who are only too happy to revisit the details of the bizarre and twisting saga, which involves small-claims court, the television court shows and Whisnant's ongoing attempt to monetize his reputation as the "Foot Man," as he has come to be known (and as the T-shirts he once sold proclaim).
As Finders Keepers gets weirder, it also gets better and deeper. Somehow, Carberry and Tweel have managed to fashion an inspirational tale out of what one local newscaster calls a "freak show." In the end, Finders Keepers is about Wood's recovery -- and I don't mean of his leg.
This simultaneously sordid and silly yarn begins as the portrait of a sad and broken man who lost a body part, but it ends up being a story about finding oneself.
Finders Keepers (B)
Directed by Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel. R (language). 82 mins. At the Texas Theatre.