In this story, Holmes's usage has blossomed into a full-blown addiction, from which he must soon free himself or die. His friend, Dr. Watson, lures Holmes to Vienna to meet with famed researcher Sigmund Freud who will help break his addiction. It is an interesting premise, and in theory no more off the mark than Sherlock Holmes's showdown with Jack the Ripper in the excellent film "Murder by Decree." There are some pretty extreme liberties taken with the characters, and hardcore fans might be shockingly disappointed.
As a Holmes story, it is mediocre at best. The writers do not seem to have the necessary flair for detection that makes Holmes so interesting and invincible, and the threaded mystery and expositions are a bit lame. The inclusion of practically every character from the Holmes cannon is a distracting as well. They are all here, Moriarty, Mycroft and even Toby, although they haven't all been cast in their usual roles. A hodgepodge of everything has been packed in, some without rhyme or reason. One gets the feeling that the director was not very familiar with the original Sherlock Holmes stories.
As a character study, the film works well, and the scenes with Freud, Watson and Holmes are very enjoyable. Robert Duvall makes a surprisingly excellent Watson, coming off as far more capable than Nicol Williamson (Merlin in "Excalibur") as Sherlock Holmes. Alan Arkin is also excellent as Sigmund Freud, supplying a steady hand to the shaky addict. Sir Laurence Olivier peeks in as Professor Moriarty, in a part that is far too small.
All in all, "The Seven-Percent Solution" was a quirky film that I enjoyed watching, but I don't feel the need to own. It takes a few too many liberties with the characters, and the mystery is sub-par. It would have made an excellent 1/2 hour television episode, but is stretched too thin here.
The psychoanalysis that is done by Freud to Sherlock Holmes is one of those magical moments in life, when everything seems to come together and make sense through the witchcraft of psychology. That doesn't mean that that's the way it is in real life or that you walk away for sure with the "explanation" to the conundrum that is Sherlock Holmes. It simply means that, as the Italian expression goes, if they are not right, they have made a very good point.