Josh Brolin did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for BFCA, for portraying Lt. Det. Christian "Bigfoot" Bjornsen in Inherent Vice.
Brolin is hilariously hateful in his portrayal of Bigfoot's disdain for Doc's who is a bit of a personification of the hippies he despises so much. In there initial trade of information Brolin infuses a bit underlying delight as he uses some obscene hand gestures to mock Doc as he relates that Shasta and the millionaire were lovers. Brolin brings such a funny calmness to his casual harassment of Doc as he makes accusations against Doc, that Bigfoot probably does not believe himself, but gives him some pleasure to abuse Doc's rights a bit. Brolin and Phoenix have such a great way with the words in their scenes together as Bigfoot kinda talks over Doc while Doc kinda talks under Bigfoot yet they do have some sort of understanding nevertheless. The off-beat dialogue of the film really comes to life in their scenes together as Brolin and Phoenix create two unique wavelengths in terms of their methods of delivery that is rather wonderful to watch, and is incredibly effective in the way it shows the very different mindsets and views of the two characters.
Of course Brolin is great fun whenever he is messing with Doc. I particularly the scene where Bigfoot far too slowly and with far too much of a pained voice goes to inform Doc over the phone that Shasta disappeared because he'd rather let him think she died for as long as he possibly can. In fact any scene where Doc and Bigfoot talk over the phone is something special. Phoenix playing up Doc's confusion while Brolin being so funny, in playing up the extreme nature of Bigfoot's humorlessness as he speaks to Doc. Brolin plays every scene in interrogation mode as though Bigfoot really can't act in any other way even if he's telling his kid to go to bed. Brolin just is on here as there is just something really funny about him yelling for more pancakes in Japanese as well as stating so matter of fact that what he likes most is the respect he gets in the restaurant. One of my favorite scenes of old Bigfoot though is when he is actually the one being berated for once, and not by Doc, but rather his wife. Brolin is outstanding in the way he keeps Bigfoot still keeping his composure, yet he is so obviously defeated as his wife speaks for him.
Like Phoenix in the film his performance is not purely comic, although he mostly is. Brolin does not leave Bigfoot wholly one note, despite the brilliance of that one to begin with. Well there is the fact that he's a very small time actor where Brolin enjoyably shows Bigfoot very much out of his element whether it is expressing a far too much unease in his appearance on Adam-12 or the least natural delivery of "groovy" ever given. Again this is just different type of funny for Brolin to be involved with but that's not all though as Brolin does quietly exude a certain sadness about Bigfoot which he subtly grows as the case becomes thicker. Brolin artfully slowly suggests that the case does indeed have a personal connection for Bigfoot itself, and that his growing distress seems to reflect how close Doc is to closing in on the target that Bigfoot wants taken out. Brolin is particularly good at this because he never compromises just how entertaining Bigfoot is as a character, yet entirely finds the needed dramatic weight to the side of Bigfoot that shows he's more than just a detective with a big ego.
Brolin only has a handful scenes in the almost two and half hour film, with plenty of other performances that could steal a bit of his thunder, but that certainly never happens. Every single one of Brolin's scenes is a gem. This is a great dead pan performance by Brolin and almost everything he does is a bit humorous whether it's his particular way of eating a frozen Banana, or just some his perfectly timed reactionary lines such as saying that resurrections are usually left to the bunko squad with such a straight face. Honestly I could just name every single line Brolin delivers in the film as an example because of just how good of a grasp he has on his material. His best scene though may be his final scene where he gives Doc a most unexpected visit. Brolin is again really funny yet surprisingly affecting as he portrays a very disenchanted Bigfoot, who's melancholia has finally gotten the best of him, as he just breaks down first smoking then eating Doc's marijuana, but then finally fully connecting with Doc as they apologize to one another at the same exact time with the same exact words. That whole setup could have seemed a bit much the chemistry Phoenix and Brolin have make it into a natural end point for the two character's relationship. What can one really say other than Brolin gives a performance worthy of the name Bigfoot Bjornsen.