They're nothing if not efficient, these killers. The scene is fast, and Prescott and Serpico play the hitmen as professionals, good at their jobs without a trace of psychology threatening to bust them at their seams. They've been paid well, and they get on with their work.
The method of Edens' execution is poison, which they inject into his foot with as little thought to its effects as they would if their syringe contained a mild anaesthetic.
It is not a mild anaesthetic, however, and all his killers need to do now is wait for Edens to die.
Which he does.
Though the two don't entirely match up, while thinking about this scene recently I was reminded of an actual murder I heard about -- I may have the details of it slightly wrong -- that involved a husband slowly and systematically poisoning his wife by putting a little bit of antifreeze in her, I believe, Gatorade every morning. Apart from the sad and prolonged death of that poor woman, the most horrifying feature of this case is the idea that this man woke up every morning, killed his wife a little bit, went about his day, and successfully went to sleep that night, day after day. There is a blankness in that man, as there is -- and I don't mean to connect these things too closely, since in one case a real person really died -- in the hitmen played by Prescott and Serpico. In Michael Clayton, Edens becomes an object, a piece of furniture, as I've said, to be brought down to the dumpster. It's only when the camera lingers on his corpse after the hitmen have left that any of his humanity is restored.
And this is violence. When violence disturbs in films, it's usually because much blood is spilled, or yards of guts have come unspooled, but I've never been able to shake this scene of bloodless murder in Michael Clayton since I first saw it more than three years ago. This is violence as work. This is violence as a project to be seen through to completion. This disturbs.
POST-SCRIPT: I should have done this before, but I'd like to thank Ryan Kelly for providing the screengrabs for this post.