THE DROP Rocco (right), some dude (left).

DOGS! What's better than dogs? Nothing! Dogs are the greatest creatures that have ever existed or will ever exist on this planet. All movies should feature dogs—or, barring multiple dogs, at least one dog, provided that dog is suitably great. Good news! In The Drop, there's a dog named Rocco! He's a pit bull puppy, and I'm here to tell you that he's great!

Sure, there's other stuff that's great about The Drop: a solid script from Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone author Dennis Lehane, subtly sharp direction from Michaël R. Roskam, and fantastic performances from Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and the late James Gandolfini.

But back to Rocco, because Rocco's just the best, and also because The Drop's whole noir-ish story gets rolling because of him. (That Rocco! Always starting something!) When Brooklyn bartender Bob (Hardy) is walking home after closing down Cousin Marv's Bar—a bar that is, appropriately enough, owned by Cousin Marv (Gandolfini)—he finds Rocco, tiny and beaten and bloody, whimpering inside a garbage can. Bob teams up with Nadia (Rapace) to take care of Rocco—and once Rocco gets the blood scrubbed off him, he's pretty much the greatest puppy ever, both cuddly and scampery in the proper amounts! Bob and Rocco are now BFFs! Both of their lives are obviously and vastly improved!

Too bad Rocco's creepy former owner (Matthias Schoenaerts) keeps creepily following Bob around making creepy threats, and too bad Cousin Marv seems to be up to something sketchy. Given that Marv's bar is sometimes used as "the drop"—a kind of secret mobster bank, where Brooklyn's illicit cash gets deposited so that it's easier for ultra-violent Chechen gangsters to make a withdrawal—Cousin Marv's sketchiness could be very sketchy indeed.

Did I mention that Bob totally gets a bunch of toys for Rocco, and makes him a little bed, and sometimes takes him to work? Bob even takes Rocco for a walk when he has to throw a severed arm into the river! Rocco loves it! Rocco is loyal and sweet and gets excited to see people and licks their faces. Who's a good boy? Rocco's a good boy!

After Rocco, the film's second-best performance belongs to Hardy, who's reliably excellent. With an awkward, hitchy walk, an unsure voice, and eyes that take in more than they let on, Hardy creates a completely different character from his Bronson in Bronson, his Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, his tinker/tailor/soldier/spy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or even his Captain Picard's Eeeeevil Clone in Star Trek: Nemesis (never forget). When The Drop finished, I wanted to start it over again immediately—in large part thanks to Hardy, whose performance seems like a thing made from layers that'll only reveal themselves on multiple viewings.

Rocco's hijinks will also probably be even better the second time! There is one part where he gets pretty excited about a hotdog chew toy!

As last weekend's pathetic box office receipts will attest, September's a weird time for movies: The studios have finished blasting their blockbusters into multiplexes, while Oscar bait has yet to start trickling into arthouses. Which makes now the perfect time to see something like The Drop—a movie that isn't going to change the world, but does an impressively engaging job of telling a twisty crime story about a couple of fantastic characters. Other than possibly changing the title—The Drop doesn't really seem to fit, but I like the sound of Rocco's Funtime Crime Adventures—I can't think of much that should be different.