“Finders Keepers” began its theatrical run in Houston yesterday at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park.
John Wood ended up losing his leg after a tragic plane accident in 2004. He had plans for the severed limb, but thought he’d be dealing with its skeletal remains. Instead his flesh covered and muscle bound leg was returned to him. John was evicted from his home a few months later and had to improvise when it came to storing the leg. He wrapped the leg in the screen from a screen door, basted it in embalming fluid, shoved it into a barbecue smoker, and planted it in a storage facility.
The contents of the storage facility were impounded once John missed a payment. Those contents were then auctioned off. A flea market salesman and self-starting entrepreneur named Shannon Whisnant purchased the smoker, found the leg, and basically went insane shortly after that. Shannon began trying to merchandise the leg by charging admission to see the smoker, flooding the radio with ads for the leg, and even designing a couple of T-shirts to sell his “foot man” gimmick. Meanwhile John desires the leg that originally was attached to him for more personal reasons.
“Finders Keepers” is a documentary chronicling the back-and-forth battle between John and Shannon over who actually has the right to a severed appendage: the original owner or the one who actually paid for it?
Something so unusual and bizarre couldn’t have happened to two more contrasting individuals. John Wood and Shannon Whisnant are about as polar-opposite as you can get. John was raised by a wealthy family and had a happy childhood. Shannon had a physically abusive father and notes how he and his wife have had to start over with nothing before. John is a people person that everyone enjoys being around while Shannon is a bit of a spotlight craving lunatic that oozes this pungent wave of smarminess. The two men have nothing in common other than John’s leg, which is an even weirder statement to say out loud.
While Shannon is running around attempting to add some sort of foundation to his new found gimmick, John is struggling with his addiction issues. Alcohol and pain pills are ugly, misshapen beasts that can physically and mentally ruin anyone who abuses them. John struggles to stay afloat most days while Shannon tries to hog and manipulate the media every chance he gets.
It becomes difficult to strongly side with either man as you unravel one of the most peculiar tales you’ve ever heard. John loses his entire family because of how the plane crash affected him and the decisions he makes regarding his drug and alcohol problems. Shannon milks John’s leg for all it’s worth even though neither man has possession of it for months. This all leads to a ridiculous lawsuit that winds up on an episode of “Judge Mathis.”
The entire ordeal lasts for years, but hearing from the families of these two men is perhaps what makes “Finders Keepers” so absorbing. It gives you an idea of what was occurring behind the scenes and in between interviews and television appearances. Hearing how John’s decisions affected his family members is heartbreaking, but also fascinating storytelling. Shannon’s wife and mother mostly sit back and watch as he spins this over exaggerated web of absurdity.
This is a story that is so unbelievable that it has to be true. “Finders Keepers” illustrates something that sounds preposterous, but is literally destroying the lives of two men. One man walks away completely crushed because of what transpired with the leg while the other manages to utilize this one-legged circus act for the better by turning his life around and becoming a better person in the process.
Disbelief, sympathy, regret, amusement, and wonder are just a few of the emotions you may feel while watching “Finders Keepers.” A cast of characters that is this eccentric is bound to make a story worth telling, listening to, and enjoying. This is one of the most outlandish and remarkable film watching experiences you’ll ever have. “Finders Keepers” is that horrible, disastrous, and massacre-inducing train wreck that you can’t look away from. It’s slightly similar to an episode of “Jerry Springer” if it had more of a cohesive story, stronger characters, and a massive dose of heart.