Character Study: Vincent & Roy – Two sides of the same coin

Time for something new at Buttered Popcorn! A magical thing occurred to us, while watching “Collateral” for the fourth time straight for our Collateral review. We were watching Vincent work, and thinking about the many other notably violent characters Tom has played, and how each of them differ from Vincent. Ethan Hunt fights and kills for his country.  Jack Reacher fights and kills for what’s right.  Lestat is… a whole different story. But then, we thought about Knight and Day, and it came to us! Vincent and Roy Miller are very similar! In fact, we maintain that either of them could have turned out like the other, if a very few circumstances in their lives had been different.

Join us for our humble true and correct opinions on the similarities (and major differences) between these two powerful characters!

Haven’t seen Collateral or Knight and Day recently? Fix that, STAT! Click the images below for more information:

Intense and gripping, Collateral!

Intense and hilarious, Knight and Day!

Now let’s get down to business!

Common characteristics

You may be asking yourself, how can those ladies at Buttered Popcorn say that Roy and Vincent are anything alike? Roy is so sweet and caring, and he did so much to help the good guys! Meanwhile, Vincent is cold and calculating, and he murders people for money!  Strange as it may seem, we we maintain that Vincent and Roy have lots in common! Let’s take a look at the many traits shared by these two characters.


Both Roy and Vincent are antisocial. Now, we don’t mean they hate talking to people or going to parties (which isn’t truly antisocial either). We’re talking about the following dictionary definition: “contrary to the laws and customs of society; devoid of, or antagonistic to, sociable instincts or practices”. If you take a look at Roy and Vincent, you can see that both of them operate contrary to the laws and customs of society. Granted, Vincent’s antipathy toward social norms reaches sociopathic levels (“extreme antisocial attitudes and a lack of conscience”), but Roy’s benevolence and empathy don’t negate his antisocial behavior so much as inform his moral code – but more on that later. For now, here are a few examples of antisocial behavior from Roy and Vincent.

Roy does not understand normal social customs:

June: Did you drug me??
Roy: Yeah.
June: You can’t DO that!
Roy: Well, you weren’t coping very well.

  • Roy thinks he warned June not to get on the plane. He legitimately believed that telling June, “Sometimes things happen for a reason” qualified as a warning. But of course, regular people know that if you want to warn someone, it would be much better to try, “June, if you get on this plane, you will fucking die“.
  • Roy is genuinely surprised that June is upset by being drugged. He also seems to think that drugging people without their permission when you believe they are not “coping well” is A-okay! It’s also fun to note that when June specifically asks Roy to drug her, he refuses, reminding her that she told him not to.
  • Roy thinks that shooting Rodney in the leg was “probably the best thing that ever happened to him”.  Arguably, this could be seen as intelligence and foresight as well, but it’s still an antisocial kind of foresight.
  • Roy is SO HONEST. It’s fun to remember this fact during the scene where Director George tells June, “He lies for a living.” Especially when you realize that Roy has not lied to June throughout the entire movie. Ever! (Okay, maybe that one time when he said the bad guys were going to “smoke us with D-5”.). But for the most part, Roy is so honest it actually qualifies as one of his antisocial tendencies. When they’re making their escape from the CIA, June panics and implores Roy, “Stop shooting people, just stop shooting people!” Roy actually attempts to lie to spare her feelings, telling her, “Okay. I’m gonna go… have a word with the guys in the tunnel.” But a second later, his absolute sense of honesty kicks in, and he comes back to tell her, “Actually, I’m gonna go shoot them. I’ll be right back.”

Vincent does not understand normal social customs:

Max: You just met him once and you kill him, like that?
Vincent: What, I should only kill people after I get to know them?

  • Vincent sees nothing wrong with assassinating his targets. In fact, he considers a successful murder a job well done, and he argues as much to Max. In fact, even though he isn’t without emotion (as we discussed a href=””>in our review), he doesn’t truly lose his temper until Max steals his hit list and throws them off the overpass. It’s only then that he boils over with fury and nearly strikes his hostage.
  • Vincent does not allow positive interactions with his marks to interfere with killing them. He practically befriends the jazz player, chatting with him until after the club closes, and sharing stories with the man. Vincent obviously enjoys the conversation, and it’s clear that he actually feels bad that he now has to kill this person. But he doesn’t let any of that stop him – he is focused on getting the job done, and he will allow nothing to interfere with that.
  • Vincent is a nihilist – he just doesn’t care about anything (outside his own professional pride), or at least that’s what he tells Max. We are floating in the vastness of space, and whether we live or die doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. This complete divesting of care about life itself is absolutely outside of the social norm.
  • Vincent is a LIAR. Unlike Roy, Vincent is the agent of death, but he prefers to act like it doesn’t touch him at all. While Roy tells June, “I’m gonna go shoot them”, Vincent tells Max, “I didn’t kill him. The bullets and the fall killed him”. Roy’s unflinching honesty is counter to the usual social graces, but Vincent’s pretense of shoving away any responsibility at all is equally abnormal.

Similar Motivations:

Both Roy and Vincent have a similar type of motivation.  They are both driven by a sense of duty and responsibility to a higher calling.  Roy, of course, is driven by his sense of honesty, and his sense of duty to the greater good. Vincent is motivated by a sense of dedication to being the consummate professional.  He is not concerned with the greater good – he doesn’t seem to believe that such a thing exists.  But he believes in maintaining his own personal “good”, in the sense that the people who hire him can depend on him to do what he has been paid to do (and do it well).

Knowledge of Human Nature:

Both Vincent and Roy know human nature well enough to use people’s habits to their advantage.  It may seem odd, when you consider the fact that neither of them seem to understand social customs very well.  But when it comes to getting the result that they want for the job they have chosen to do, both of them know how to recognize and make use of what they know about human nature in general, and about the particular human they’re working with.

Whatever you do… just… don’t leave the hotel.

Roy knows June will follow him out of the hotel, especially if he tells her specifically to stay inside.  He uses that knowledge to make sure that she hears exactly what he needs her to hear so that he can maneuver her to safety.

He’s probably married. The other one has kids. Probably his wife’s pregnant.

Vincent knows Max will cooperate if he threatens the lives of innocent people, even though Vincent does not care about innocent people at all.  When a police officer pulls Max over for his broken windshield, Vincent threatens to kill the cop if Max doesn’t make him go away.  He also insists on going to see Max’s mother, in what seems like an almost tender display of humanity (such as it is).  But later, Vincent threatens to go back to the hospital and murder Max’s mother if he doesn’t cooperate.

Seize the Day:

Both Roy and Vincent are all about carpe diem!  Sieze the day!  They don’t believe in waiting for some magic moment to follow their dreams.

Roy: Someday. It’s a dangerous word.
June: Dangerous?
Roy: It’s really just code for ‘never’.

Someday? Someday my dream will come? But one night you’ll wake up and you’ll discover that it never happened. It’s all turned around on you, and it never will, and suddenly you are old. Didn’t happen, and it never will, because you were never gonna do it anyway.

They may have different ways of putting it (Vincent is SO MEAN), but they say exactly the same thing to their fellow travelers (okay, okay, kidnap victim in Max’s case, but you know what we mean). Don’t wait!  Just get out there and do whatever it is, because “life is short, then one day it’s gone”.

Similar Plot Elements:

While thinking about these two films side by side, we at Buttered Popcorn also noticed another interesting thing: there are, in addition to the similarities between Roy and Vincent, several plot elements that both movies share. Take a look at some of the similar plot elements we found:

Both Roy and Vincent have unwilling civilian companions who are (mostly) normal people. June has been roped into Roy’s drama partly by Roy’s actions and partly because of Fitz. She fears Roy, fears the situation, is partly responsible for her own involvement (more on that later), and enjoys her profession, but wants to follow a dream “someday”. Max has been roped into Vincent’s drama by Vincent’s actions, and the workings of fate. He fears Vincent, fears the situation, is partly responsible for his own involvement (again, more on that later), and enjoys his profession, but wants to follow a dream “someday”.

Now, what do we mean by saying that Max and June are partly responsible for getting roped into adventure? June could have made alternate arrangements when she was turned away from her chosen flight. Instead, she insists on being allowed onto the plane. It doesn’t work in her case (Fitzgerald has to intervene), but June is absolutely putting herself back into the adventure when she calls Antonio and claims she has the Zephyr in her possession. Like June, Max also has a direct hand in getting swept up into his particular adventures. Max could have let Vincent walk away when he noticed him at the door, but he calls him back and invites him into the cab. Max shows his own proactive nature later in the game too, when he risks his life and crashes the cab to try to stop Vincent from continuing his killing spree.

Another element of the story that is similar between the two movies is the fact that both Roy and Vincent are are changed by their civilian companions.  Roy would never have considered leaving his job before meeting June.  He left his beloved parents that he continued to take care of, and dealt with the loneliness, being outcast and falsely accused, but it took June Havens to get him out at last. (She also manages to teach him not to drug people!)

With Vincent, we get the distinct impression that he has never really cared about killing people before.  It’s his job, and he takes pride in it, but he doesn’t really care about the people he kills.  It doesn’t seem to affect him at all.  That begins to change as Max talks to Vincent.  He begins to inject conscience into the killer, and you can tell it’s had an effect, when Vincent assassinates the horn player. You can see that Vincent feels emotional about the situation, and he’s obviously upset when Max forces him to look at himself by asking, “What if he got the answer right?  Would you have let him go?”

Another similarity between the two plots is that both characters must die before they can escape their situations.  Vincent has to literally die before he is stopped, while Roy has to fake his own death (or have it faked for him by June) before he can get away from the service.

Crucial Differences:

Now before you tell us, “What’s wrong with you, Buttered Popcorn? Do you REALLY think these guys are just alike??” – never fear! Obviously, there are some crucial differences between them, which is why one is a heroic (if psychotic) savior, and the other is a terrifying (and psychotic) murderer.

Innocent lives:

This is gonna be better for you than Grove Hall! We good?

Roy will not kill innocent people (even though he will hurt them if he has to). He kills once-fellow agents with no compunction, because they are threatening his life, or they have turned to the wrong side. Roy could easily have killed Rodney, but he takes special care not to kill him, because he’s innocent.

Millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars and a speck on one, in a blink – that’s us. Lost in space. The cop, you, me – who notices?

Vincent kills whoever is on the list – criminal informants, or crack-shot attorneys just trying to do their jobs. He doesn’t care why, he doesn’t care who, and he will kill not only the people on his hit list, but anyone else who gets in his way.

Core Motivation:

We mentioned that Roy and Vincent operate on similar motivations – duty and a dedication to a “higher” calling. However, there are crucial differences in their core motivations that make one a hero and one a villain. Vincent is motivated by professional pride, and it clouds all other considerations. “Evil” for him is whatever gets in the way of him doing what he has set out to do. Roy, on the other hand, is motivated to protect others, whether that means disobeying orders or not.

These crucial differences are why Vincent is a villain (even though he saves Max’s life, encourages him to follow his dreams, and buys flowers for an old woman in the hospital), and Roy is a hero (even though he kidnaps a woman at gunpoint, drugs her multiple times, and shoots a fire fighter). We can’t help thinking that if Vincent had grown up with the loving and quirky mom who bakes cookies for strange, stalkery women, and the stern but caring dad that isn’t afraid to use his shot gun on trespassers, he might have turned out differently. And maybe if Roy had grown up with a bitter and abusive father, he might have turned out quite differently himself.

We hope you have enjoyed our deep look into the similarities (and differences) of these fantastic characters!  We remain in awe of how well Tom manages to play a jolly, kind secret agent, and a hard, cold assassin with the same level of believability.  He’s marvelous!

If you haven’t had a chance yet, we welcome you to check out our Collateral Review and our review for Knight and Day. And don’t forget that you can buy both of these great movies from Amazon. Check the links below for more information:

2 thoughts on “Character Study: Vincent & Roy – Two sides of the same coin”

  1. Great analysis! You should be a film critic with you ability to analyze these two characters. 🙂
    Keep up the good work. ?

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words!! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! 🙂

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